WASHINGTON: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) awarded Burson-Marsteller a $3.5 million contract on May 5 for PR and advertising support for its extended digital television consumer awareness campaign.
As a result, Burson “will provide… services that will support advertising and PR in a variety of media services, publications, and targeted distribution services that will expand consumer education and awareness regarding the transition to digital television,” according to the RFP. The base period of the contract runs until June 12 – the extended transition date approved by Congress earlier this year – and has an option of two one-month base periods.
The FCC had worked with Ketchum in the year leading up to the digital transition switch. Marv Gellman, VP and director of media relations at Ketchum, previously told PRWeek that the agency's contract with the FCC expired on February 13.
Government contracts often specify vendor preference with underserved groups such as women- or minority-owned firms. One firm that applied for the FCC business said that the contract was initially open only to small businesses, and it was surprised to learn that Burson had won the account.
“They're changing the rules in the middle of the game,” the source, who declined to be identified, said. The source further claimed that the FCC did not notify it that the pitch was expanded to larger firms.
However, the FCC's RFQ appears to state that the contest was open to all size firms, albeit with an initial preference for some firms.
The RFQ states that it is a “full and open competition to enter into a contract,” but then in response to a vendor question about whether minority- and disabled- businesses have an advantage during the process, the agency replied: “There is no bidding ‘advantage' for those groups identified, although this process will first be set aside for HUBZones and then small businesses, and there is a price evaluation preference for HUBZone small business concerns.”
In response to another question about whether a pool of contractors was being considered, the agency replied that “The bidding process is open to all bidders and the FCC will consider all vendors who respond to the RFQ.”
Rick Kaplan, deputy director of the FCC's DTV transition team, said that agencies can file a protest with the federal government if they feel the process was not administered fairly.
A Burson representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
Updated: May 11, 2009