Starting gun fired for new government ad roster

Bids due in by 21 April for places on next strategic agency framework.

'Think 111 First' ad for NHS England by current roster agency M&C Saatchi
'Think 111 First' ad for NHS England by current roster agency M&C Saatchi

Creative agencies will be competing for a reduced number of places on the government’s next four-year roster for long-running campaign management services.

The Campaign Solutions 2 roster relates to end-to-end campaign management and is the successor to the Campaign Solutions roster, which was created at the end of 2016 and expires this year.

Campaign Solutions 2 remains distinct from the roster for ad-hoc campaign services, which was created at the beginning of 2017. This larger roster (in terms of the number of slots) is also having a shake-up for its next incarnation later this year, including a change of name from Communications Services to Communications Marketplace.

However, it is the Campaign Solutions 2 tender that is occupying the immediate attention of the UK’s largest creative agencies, with a deadline of 21 April for bids.

The tender is divided into five lots, of which Lot 1 and Lot 2 are of most interest to creative and media planning agencies, while Lot 5 will interest event specialists. The government estimates that £490m of spend will be allocated through the framework over its four-year lifetime.

The Lots, and number of suppliers the government is seeking for each, are as follows:

  • Lot 1: End-to-end campaign solutions (12 suppliers)
  • Lot 2: Media strategy and planning (6)
  • Lot 3: Content versioning and distribution (1)
  • Lot 4: Stock imagery, footage and sound (1)
  • Lot 5: Events (6)

The structure of the new roster is noticeably different from the expiring roster, which allocated places to specialist agency disciplines: creative, strategy, direct, digital and social, partnerships and PR.

While there are 26 agencies on the current roster, there are a maximum of 12 supplier places available in Lot 1 of the new roster.

Lot 1’s description indicates the government is now seeking suppliers with a more generalist approach and the ability to manage agency teams. Tender documents describe Lot 1 suppliers as needing to have the strategic and creative excellence to provide an end-to-end solution, vision, and domestic and international connections to establish, contract and manage the right team at the right stage of the campaign life cycle.

International capabilities in particular have been highlighted by the procurement team as something missing in the current roster. It said it would be looking for agencies to have the capability of delivering international campaigns through deep, specialist, in-market expertise, either via in-house capability or their relationships within international markets.

Agencies are allowed to form consortia, as long as they nominate a lead member, and to bid with named key sub-contractors. Changes to parties involved in such arrangements are allowed on condition the procurement team is notified.

Holding companies will be restricted in the number of Lot 1 places they can win, to ensure that competition between roster members is not distorted.

A holding company can be part of no more than five bids, whether those are from agencies bidding individually, or as part of a consortium. However, there is a waiver when agencies have only a sub-contractor role.

Secondly, a maximum of two places can be awarded to agencies in the same holding group. So if three or more bids are won, only the two highest-scored bids will be allowed.

The current creative agency roster largely reflects such concerns, with business spread around holding companies. Only Omnicom has more than two agencies on the roster, but solely by virtue of having bought Lucky Generals after that agency won its place.

The above holding company restrictions apply to Lot 1 only and not the other four lots.

Lot 2 is for media strategy, which was previously dealt with through the Communications Services framework rather than the Campaign Solutions framework.

Lot 2 requires capability in understanding how paid, owned and earned solutions are best able to support the delivery of specific and overall programme and campaign outcomes, according to the tender documents.

This media work is awarded independently to the government's media buying, which is currently held by Manning Gottlieb OMD. 

The events-focused Lot 5 offers up to six places to suppliers, and covers the development and delivery of major events at the more complex end of the scale than those covered by the Communications Services / Communications Marketplace roster.

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