Tenn. signs out-of-state firm for 'Made in Tennessee' ads - WKRN News 2

Tenn. signs out-of-state firm for 'Made in Tennessee' ads

Posted: Updated: Jul 23, 2014 07:50 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - You might think a state government ad campaign titled "Made in Tennessee" would be produced by a company based in the Volunteer State. Think again.

Earlier this year, the Tennessee Department of Tourism signed a five-year, $60 million contract with Kansas City, Missouri-based VML to produce commercials aimed at attracting tourism.

Not much was said then, but two days ago, a New York Times article renewed some questions about the irony of a "Made in Tennessee" state government ad campaign produced by a company based out-of-state.

"It’s ridiculous," said a spokesperson for a Nashville-based group that uses local ad firms to produce its highly-produced television commercials.

The head of a production firm echoed those thoughts privately to News 2 saying there are plenty of outlets in Nashville alone that could have made the "Made in Tennessee” ads.

State lawmaker Jason Powell told News 2 he feels the same way along with some disappointment. He also finds it ironic since he sponsored a unanimously approved bill this year on Capitol Hill called “The Made in Tennessee Act."

The bill, signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam, urges manufacturers to promote "Made in Tennessee" on their products, but it not make any reference to state agencies like tourism development and their contracts.

"I think it's a great ad, and it does a lot of good for our state, but the only problem I have is the company that made the ad is not made in Tennessee themselves,” he told News 2 Wednesday. "I just find it a little disappointing and ironic."

When asked why the states chose VML, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development said, in part, “All components of the 'Made in Tennessee' commercials were made in Tennessee.”

The emailed statement went on to say "the logo was created by a company out of Knoxville. The voice-over talent is native Tennessean Rivers Rutherford. All music was created by Tennessee musicians. 95% of production crew (including all stock footage) used are Tennesseans. On-camera talent are all Tennesseans or authentic Tennessee visitors. The spots were edited in Tennessee."

As for the selection process, the department said in a second emailed statement that the request-for-bid process "was rigorous, in-depth and fair. The tourism industry was represented in this process from Bristol to Memphis and all points in between. There was complete consensus among all the judges. The criteria: Tennessee needs an agency with the right experience and channels to reach long-haul domestic markets and international markets. VML fit that criteria the best.”

VML is no stranger to the Nashville market. On its website, the company touts the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation.

Its CEO, Butch Spyridon, told News 2 via email, "VML was selected through a national [request-for-bid process] on the redesign of the visitmusiccity.com website, to which they submitted the best, highest quality response. Our website is arguably our most critical marketing tool and we were looking for the best talent we could find."

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