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News 13 Apr 2022 - 4 min read

‘Fiji is a paradise… sound good?' 100 agencies pile in for $17m media, creative accounts after open invite from Tourism Fiji’s boss on LinkedIn

By Sam Buckingham-Jones - Deputy Editor
Tourism Fiji

An example from The Hallway's 'Fiji's open, mate!' campaign promoted to Australians in November last year.

Tourism Fiji’s pitch for media, creative and digital partners is underway, and “every man and his dog” in adland has thrown their hat in the ring. It was shared on LinkedIn by former South Australian Tourism Commission marketer Brent Hill, who is now CEO of Tourism Fiji.

What you need to know:

  • Tourism Fiji is pitching its media and digital account ($10-12m), and creative ($3-5m). The pitch was promoted on LinkedIn; more than 100 agencies are said to have piled in.
  • In a two-stage pitch, the first round involved answers to seven questions. Agencies were quickly culled before stage two, which is due to begin, asks for more detailed presentations.
  • Emma Campbell, Tourism Fiji’s CMO, said opening the virtual pitch up to all agencies is part of the organisation’s tender guidelines. “We were really happy with the level of interest,” she says – but it has meant a lot of video calls.
  • The pitch process is due to finish in early May.

The pitch is virtual and I’ve certainly had lots of video calls over the last few weeks... We were really keen to understand the market and who would be interested in working with us. We were really happy with the level of interest.

Emma Campbell, Tourism Fiji, CMO

It takes a brave marketer to open up a pitch to their LinkedIn followers, but that’s exactly what Brent Hill, CEO of Tourism Fiji – and formerly South Australian Tourism Commission’s chief marketer, did.

“Fiji is a paradise to visit.. imagine working with Tourism Fiji as our creative, digital or media agency,” he wrote on the platform in early March. “Sound good? … then apply to our EOI process below”.

And many, many did what he asked. Conjecture has it that more than 100 agencies from Australia, New Zealand and the US submitted a response.

“Every man and his dog had a crack at it. Why wouldn’t you?” one Australian holdco exec said.

The expression of interest document was a clear and concise four pages: It would be a three-year contract, with a $3 to $5m budget for creative and $10 to $12m for digital and media spend each year. The country has had a “challenging two years” through Covid, and there’s been a “significant impact on its tourism industry”. The tourism body was, and is, looking to quickly change that.

There was also a potential sweetener. Fiji Airways would also be a part of the process, looking at whether a shared agency model for its brand creative and advertising could work. It might not, and the airline would be “free to make their own decisions on agencies of choice”. But the implication was clear – the account could be two for the price of one.

Mi3 spoke to some agencies involved in the pitch. “It’s unusual to have a completely open pitch,” one agency exec said. “Some ask for War and Peace before you make it through, [Tourism Fiji] seem to have managed it pretty well.”

Another agency boss said while it was a fair process, it was likely an inefficient way to approach a pitch. Few pitches are so open.

“With so many agencies, it feels like they could have missed out on good partners,” the agency boss said. “It’s not very efficient for them to go through hundreds of agency RFPs.” But, the exec  added, “no-one had to enter. We all went in knowing the process… they were fair, timely, and it was a cool opportunity.”

Brent Hill Tourism Fiji Linkedin Post

Tourism Fiji CEO Brent Hill's Linkedin post sharing the pitch EOI.

Emma Campbell is Tourism Fiji’s Chief Marketing Officer, and she said it had been an extremely busy process so far. “The pitch is virtual and I’ve certainly had lots of video calls over the last few weeks!” she said. She added that the organisation’s tender guidelines mean they put the pitch out publicly, but more importantly, “we were really keen to understand the market and who would be interested in working with us. We were really happy with the level of interest.”

It has been a two stage process, with an open slather approach to stage one – answer these seven questions and we’ll develop a shortlist. Some agencies were notified about two weeks ago they hadn’t made the second round.

Stage two, which is due to start soon, will involve a few days of briefing sessions and then a week of presentations. The whole process was scheduled to take two months.

“We are still finalising the Stage Two list as we tweaked the process slightly from the original plan,” Campbell said. “We expect that across the different categories we will have a maximum of three agencies. The final selection will be based on experience working on global brands, level of creativity, and who we feel will be really strong partners for us as a destination…

“We’re really conscious of it not being an onerous process for agencies, so we’re keeping the stage two presentations fairly light with a targeted question to help us determine how we well we would work together.”

Tourism Fiji has worked with a few different agencies in recent months. In December, it released its ‘Open for Happiness’ platform, with creative by Saatchi & Saatchi NZ and media by Starcom. Just a month earlier, The Hallway did both the media and creative for ‘Fiji’s open, mate!’ – a campaign targeting Aussies. The Hallway was appointed the organisation’s full service media agency in 2018, but this was the first major creative assignment the indie agency had done. 

The holdco exec said Omnicom’s TBWA would be in with a good shot, as it had an existing relationship with Hill – he appointed TBWA as the SATC’s agency in 2018 after a pitch.

The process is due to finish in early May, when a final decision will be made.

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