Winston-Salem to vote on bringing fair advertising in-house

Winston-Salem to vote on bringing fair advertising in-house
March 22
04:00 2018

Next week, the Winston-Salem City Council will again consider having city staff do Dixie Classic Fair advertising after diversity concerns were raised about the firm that’s been doing it for the last six years.

Wildfire LLC, which has been doing marketing and advertising for the fair, came in as the lowest bidder twice for a new contract and met the Minority/Woman Business Enterprise (M/WBE) subcontractor requirements. However, several City Council members raised concerns that the firm has no minority employees.

The Chronicle is among the newspapers Wildfire regularly placed fair ads in. Wildfire indicated it would do so again in both its list of minority subcontractors and its 145-page proposal to the city. City Council members Derwin Montgomery and James Taylor are among the owners of the Chronicle. During last month’s council meeting, Montgomery said the paper would take no money from advertising involved with the contract to avoid conflicts of interest, so he and Taylor could vote on the matter.

He then suggested the City Marketing and Communications Department do the advertising instead. A proposal to send it back to committee instead of voting on it on the spot resulted in a rare tie vote, which the Mayor broke in favor of sending it back to committee.

During the March 19 Finance Committee meeting, the staff proposal for doing the fair’s marketing passed with a 3-1 vote, sending it back to full council for a vote this Monday. Council Member Jeff MacIntosh voted for it, saying he liked bringing it in-house, but did feel it was being done in “herky-jerky” way.

Robert Clark was the sole “no” vote, saying Wildfire deserved the contract since they “legitimately, honestly” met all the city’s criteria twice. He argued it’s unfair for the city to “move the goal posts” during the bidding process.

“If we want to do something different, you change the rules before the game, not change the rules twice after the game starts,” said Clark.

Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke said she didn’t feel fair attendees have been as diverse as they should be. City Council Member Denise “D.D.” Adams also felt this will help the fair appeal to minorities, saying that firms that lack diversity can sometimes do things that inadvertently upset minorities, like the photo of a black boy in a hoodie that read “Coolest Monkey in The Jungle” on the website of Swedish-based multinational retailer H&M.

“You got to have folks in the room,” said Adams.

Wildfire’s proposal was $230,000. City staff’s 6-page proposal was  $209,791 with $14,791 of which is salaries that the city staff involved would normally be paid. Similar to Wildfire’s proposal, there’s $140,000 for buying fair advertising across the Triad with a fee going to a media buying firm, in this case it’s $28,000 that’ll go to Media Placement Services of High Point.

City Marketing Manager Ed McNeal said that they’ll use the department’s resources to produce professional videos for digital and social media to show what’s happening at the fair and maximize on the audience’s “fear of missing out.” He said they also plan to give away $10,000 worth of prizes in drawings at the fair, which they’ll promote using beacon devices that send out alerts to nearby mobile devices.

Most of the work will be done by city staff, though the department plans to contract with Mary Giunca for social media and public relations and could potentially contract out for video support as well.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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