Quebec agencies put on brave face
But rule changes for federal government advertising contracts will hurt

When you're on top, any change in the status quo is more likely to hurt rather than help. So it's no surprise that Quebec agencies, which have been getting a disproportionate chunk of federal ad budgets were less than enthusiastic about the proposed rule changes regarding how these contracts will be awarded in the future.

Nevertheless with the immense public outcry over Public Works and Government Services Canada's the ad industry selection process during the past year, the writing was on the wall. And Quebec ad industry pros are putting on a brave face.

"The wealth is going to be spread around more than it ever was," says Jacques Duval, chairman of the Institute of Communications and Advertising, and president of Montreal-based Marketel. "It won't be just a few agencies getting the business."

Public Works and Government Services Canada, could not provide a complete list of which agencies profited from the $212 million in advertising services that were handed out by the Government of Canada during 2001-2002. But by all indications Quebec did well.

Montreal based Mediavision is the agency-of-record for the approximately $125 million of media buys. Among other agencies thought to have profited from federal largesse are the now defunct Groupaction, BCP and Everest Communication Marketing, which are all Quebec based.

Although the changes floated in various discussion papers and consultations were widespread, the one that will hurt Quebec firms most is the proposed elimination of the requirement that agencies bidding for federal government business be Canadian-owned.

Future government contracts will be awarded based on content not ownership. Those that can guarantee that 80% of the work will be done by Canadians will now be eligible. That will open the field to a wide range of agencies with U.S parents.

"The new changes will be fairer," said Duval. "Contracts will be now awarded more on the basis of who can do the best job rather than on other criteria."

The proposed rule changes are already having an effect. Earlier this month Everest, Mediavision and Lambert International announced the nomination of Charles Choquette as president of the three entities.

Among his first moves Choquette signaled that he is looking to expand his ties with U.S. based Draft International, which had held a minority interest in Everest. The company will also market some services under the Draft brand. Until now, any expansion in that relationship would have put the group's government work in jeopardy. But with the rule proposed changes the restraints will no longer apply.

Although Choquette could not confirm what form the eventual association would take, he hinted it could lead to the combination of the three firms under the Draft Quebec brand. "All options are now open," said Choquette.

Nevertheless he expressed doubt about much the government's tinkering with its regulations would change.

"I don't think the new rule changes are going to have much of an effect," Choquette said. "The federal government is a big player in the advertising world, but it is still just one client. The advertising industry is much bigger than that."

BCP has been another big winner over the years under the existing regime, having worked on such federal government plums as Canada Post, the Royal Canadian Mint and others.

The company split in two during the mid-1990s to make itself eligible for the work, with BCP remaining Canadian-owned. The second branch is now controlled by Publicis. Parisella could not be reached but in the past he has expressed disappointment with the proposed changes.






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