The Associated Press August 17, 2011, 7:45PM ET

NM tourism agency searches for new ad, PR agencies

State Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson has decided against renewing her department's advertising and public relations contracts and will launch a national search for agencies that can help build a compelling campaign to boost New Mexico's national and international appeal.

Jacobson, in an interview Wednesday, said the department will put out requests for proposals next week to replace the contracts the state currently holds with M&C Saatchi in Los Angeles and the New York-based public relations firm Development Counsellors International.

Those contracts could have been renewed, Jacobson said, but she decided to throw the business out for a new round of bids to make sure whoever the state hires is "in line with the brand that we want to build for New Mexico."

"Now is the time in the process that we need to get our long-term partner on board, make sure we have the most creative and innovative agencies as our partners," she said.

The ad contract will be for about $2.5 million a year, and the public relations contract will be for about $120,000, both of which are roughly in line with what the department pays now for the services.

She said the department will look at national and local firms.

"Because of our limited budget, ideas matter most," she said. "We are looking for folks who really get the essence of what we believe is New Mexico."

Jacobson, a former marketing executive with Quaker Oats in Chicago, has been working since she took office earlier this year to lay the foundation for campaigns that will highlight the best of New Mexico and make it a more popular national and international destination.

Right now, she said, the state ranks 38th on the list of places people want to visit. It should rank among the top three destinations in the country, she said.

Jacobson expects to unveil the new campaign sometime early next year.

In the meantime, she said the department is focused on finishing strong with its Catch the Billy the Kid promotion, in which events with prizes of as much as $10,000 were held in different cities around the state this summer.

The goal was to build in-state and drive-thru tourism, but Jacobson said it was also a hit with national and international visitors.

"Last week we saw international travelers who decided to stay a little longer in Aztec and participate in a stick horse rodeo," Jacobson said. "They said it was the best day they had on their whole trip in the United States."


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