Army goes back to basics, relaunches $200 million review

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The U.S. Army's review for its $200 million recruiting account officially has sunk into a quagmire.

The Army is relaunching its review "due to inconsistencies in the evaluation approach." That means it won't pick a shop until at least September-15 months after the mandated search started. New work for what is the government's biggest advertising contract likely won't break until early 2006, said an executive familiar with the Army.

It's a delay the Army can ill afford. The Army, which has missed recruiting goals for two straight months, needs to settle on an agency partner as the war in Iraq scares off potential enlistees and their parents.

"They've got so many problems that [they] don't want anything else to increase uncertainty," said Thomas W. Evans, who was U.S. Army Recruiting Command deputy director-advertising and public affairs from 1973 to 1993.

Agency execs were scratching their heads over what "inconsistencies"-the term Kathy Dobeck, contracting officer for the Defense Contracting Command, used in a memo informing shops of the news-derailed the review.

One concern may have been that a losing agency would have seized on an irregularity-real or perceived-to lodge a protest when a winner was chosen. That would have sparked a bureaucratic nightmare and left the Army in the lurch, Mr. Evans said.

RESTART SOON

Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said contracting officials didn't elaborate on the "inconsistencies." "Our contracting office is very thorough and very fair in the evaluation," he said. The new review could start as early as this week. Some agencies have already spent more than $1 million pursuing the business, all for naught.

Incumbent Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, part of Publicis Groupe, has viewed the Army as a must-win and will take another swing. Other contenders were Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson Worldwide, New York; Omnicom Group's BBDO, Atlanta and New York; and WPP Group's Grey, Ogilvy & Mather and Y&R, all New York. Representatives of BBDO, McCann, Ogilvy, Grey and Y&R declined to comment on whether they would repitch the business.

contributing: matthew creamer, ira teinowitz

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