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A newly reauthorized Brand USA opted to extend its agreement with Ogilvy Public Relations as the national tourism body’s global media relations agency of record following a request for proposal process. New York-based Ogilvy has served in that role since December 2013.
Brand USA, a public-private partnership to promote U.S. tourism, is in business through 2020 following congressional passage of a $1.1 trillion spending bill that included a provision to give Brand USA a new lease on life.
Brand USA’s goal is to increase inbound visitations and U.S. tourism’s global market share, vowing to do so through “a strategic mix of earned media relations, social media engagement, content creation, influencer engagement and industry events’ support.”
The re-signing of Ogilvy occurs as Brand USA is facing a lawsuit by its former vice president of operations charging Brand USA engaged in “kickback schemes” with Visit California and Visit Florida, among others, and fraudulently inflated partners’ contributions to meet budgetary goals and qualify for greater federal matching funds.
Through visitors’ fees, the U.S. government matches the contributions made to Brand USA by its partners.
Brand USA counters that the alleged kickback schemes were actually standard cooperative advertising practices, and that in-kind contributions were valued properly.
Brand USA claims that its marketing activities directly led to an influx of an additional 1.1 million visitors to the U.S. while some of its return on investment boasts have been questioned.