When Treasury sent out a note on December 15 last year asking for interested parties to put their hands up if they wanted a piece of the ‘extension of the mixed ownership model’ account, everyone with dreams of festive cheer died a little inside. And, while the Greens are complaining that the tender process broke the rules, the list of winners was released recently—and fairly silently—and Clemenger BBDO and PR company Senate Communications have taken the big prizes in the comms space.
According to a story in Stuff, 21 submissions were received before the January 9 cut off (it's thought Ogilvy and TBWA\ were also among the contenders), but Greens co-leader Russel Norman called the government out for not heeding its own guidelines, which say: "unless it is unavoidable, government entities should be sensitive to the needs of busy people and not initiate tendering processes in the three weeks before Christmas, the week after Christmas and around Easter".
Treasury spokeswoman Chris Major told Stuff the time frame was unavoidable, however, and the tender process met the procurement standards.
"That level of respondents would suggest the timeframe was not a deterrent," she said.
Clemenger BBDO's director of integration Sean Keaney wouldn't comment and put us onto managing director Andrew Holt, who couldn't be reached. The government is hoping to raise between $5-7 billion from the partial sale of Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy, Genesis, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand in the next few years, and it has said it's planning on spending about two percent of that on a combination of advertising and marketing, PR, investment company (Goldman Sachs and internet company Computershare Investor Services), banking and legal services, and administration (it's thought the government is hoping to do one campaign for each of the assets it's selling and it’s likely to spend $2-2.5 million per campaign on the comms).
It’s a big account. But it will also be very difficult to get right (one contender we spoke to said it was like the equivalent of working on a tobacco account, because personal views about what you're selling will always take a back seat to doing the job that's required of you). As the election—and the ensuing debate about whether National has the mandate to sell the assets—has shown, it's a very contentious issue, so a big part of the campaign will presumably be based around convincing Kiwis that it’s a good idea for the government to reduce its ownership in these assets to 51 percent—and a good idea for Kiwis to shell out for some shares.