BBDO WEST WINS $100 MILLION CALIF. LOTTERY REVIEW

But Lottery Commission Now Lacks a Quorum

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- The California Lottery yesterday named Omnicom Group's BBDO West of San Francisco the latest apparent successful bidder
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Selected for $100 Million State Lottery Advertising Account

for its four-year, $100 million advertising account.

4th time
BBDO West is the fourth ad agency since 2001 to be tentatively awarded the contract, hence the designation "apparent successful bidder." In what is viewed by the industry as an ongoing comedy of errors, the previous three winners were thrown out as a result of various controversial mishaps that short-circuited the review process.

And several steps remain before the current review is concluded and BBDO gets the prize. Before a final contract is signed, lottery officials must wait through a protest period that could take another month.

Lacks quorum
Barring a new round of protests, the decision would then be put to a vote before the California Lottery Commission in April. However, there is something of a potential hitch. The four-member commission currently has two vacant seats and therefore cannot convene the minimum three-member quorum required to legally conduct business. California's new governor, Arnold Schwarzeneger, must fill the vacancies before procedures necessary to finalize the advertising contract can be completed.

There remains a chance, though slim, of a challenge to BBDO's award. Although the Lottery worked diligently to adjust its process for the latest advertising review, strict agency ownership disclosure requirements were demanded of the agencies. Apparently an undisclosed number of review participants did not initially pass muster on this point, which would have required they be dropped from the process.

Unequal playing field?
The Lottery, however, gave all entrants a second chance at disclosing ownership, which in effect aided those that did not properly follow the requirements and may have arguably created an unequal playing field. Lottery officials never publicly disclosed which agencies were aided by the ruling and it was not known whether BBDO West failed initially to pass that hurdle.

This is the sort of technical point that has resulted in the award being thrown out three previous times.

Previous winners
First, the apprent successful bid by BBDO sibling DDB Worldwide, Los Angeles, was protested by Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide on disclosure grounds. Subsequently. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, was named apparent successful bidder, but that effort was derailed by DDB, which threatened a lawsuit. Then FCB sibling McCann-Erickson, Los Angeles, was chosen, but that decision was overturned when it was pointed out that McCann-Erickson made the same type of disclosure error as DDB.

As a result, the Lottery staff, including its attorney, conducted the review this time around after consulting with the American Association of Advertising Agencies. It held a meeting with agencies to explain disclosure details. The attorney also attended final creative presentations, according to a number of executives at the sessions.

Gag order
Agency representatives, who are under order from the commission not to speak to the press, either declined to comment or did not return calls. Until a contract is signed, Grey, the incumbent for a record seven years, retains the account.

Other finalists in the current review were DDB, along with siblings Alcone and OMD; Grey Worldwide; Interpublic's Dailey & Associates, West Hollywood; and independent Ground Zero, Los Angeles.

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