Watchdog Criticises US Army Ad Contract Renewal Methods

21 July 2005

Some ads just seem to run and run … and some ad contracts too.

At least that's what it seems with Leo Burnett and its US Army advertising account, whose recent six month extension has prompted an outcry from watchdog Project on Government Oversight (POGO) on the grounds of competition evasion by the Pentagon.

The civilian-recruiting ad contract was awarded to Burnett, a unit of Publicis Groupe, in July 2000 for a maximum of four years. But somehow, a series of extensions has ensured it has held on to the account while rival agencies fumed.

POGO alleges that the repeated contract extensions are an attempt to dodge competition, a legal necessity for government contracts to ensure costs are kept to a minimum. General counsel for the watchdog, Scott H Amey, believes the Burnett renewals "may be a good example of how the contracting system is ripe for abuse".

Agencies such as Interpublic's McCann Erickson and WPP's Y&R Advertising competed for the Army's new contract in the spring of last year, but were later informed that the review had been cancelled by the military as a result of claimed "inconsistencies in the evaluation process".

If the repeated delays have dampened the competitive enthusiasm of agency rivals, it may be that Burnett will win a one-horse race when the account comes up for grabs at the end of the year.

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff