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NY agency irked by ABQ contract cancellation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The creative agency that won part of a $1 million project under the Berry administration to market Albuquerque as a “premier destination” for doing business said it won’t be doing business with the city again any time soon.

In 2016, New York-based Renegade Lovers, which does business as Rough Draft NYC, won a portion of the campaign worth $650,000, with the remaining $350,000 awarded to Albuquerque-based McKee Wallwork & Co. The Keller administration terminated both contracts in January, about two months before the previously negotiated end of the project.

According to the city’s Economic Development Department, Albuquerque paid Rough Draft $600,648 of the $650,000 it had been allotted in the contract. McKee Wallwork was paid $323,891 out of $350,000.

Glenn Pajarito, Rough Draft’s co-founder, said his company front-loaded many of the expenses associated with the project and that the early termination meant a loss of $85,463 for the three-person organization. He said he is considering legal action against the city, though he has not yet retained an attorney for that purpose.

“It’s on the table,” said Pajarito. “We kind of feel like (the city) took advantage of us. It was a massive surprise.”

A spokeswoman for Albuquerque’s Economic Development Department said the Keller administration “walked into a budget situation that required a hard look at city spending.” She also said the administration felt the results of Rough Draft’s portion of the project were not commensurate with the amount of money being spent.

“While this campaign certainly resulted in some positive coverage of the city, we don’t believe any businesses chose to move here as a result,” she said in an email.

The spokeswoman said the city’s concerns did not extend to McKee Wallwork’s portion, in part because the contract was smaller.

In a statement, McKee Wallwork President Steve McKee said the contract termination was “the administration’s prerogative.”

“We respect and accept that,” McKee said in a statement.

City records show that, since October 2016, McKee Wallwork’s deliverables were primarily focused on The Loop, a social media tool the agency developed. As of Sept. 12, 2017, The Loop had 436 members, cost $458,970 to produce and generated 14.1 million social media impressions, according to city documents.

Rough Draft’s work included strategic planning; development, maintenance and content creation related to the ABQic.com website; coordinating promotional tours for entrepreneurs and members of the media; creation and placement of a $15,000 advertisement in Southwest Airlines magazine; and facilitating sponsorship of several conferences and events including $10,000 with the SOMOS ABQ festival, among other activities.

Asked about the success of the campaign, Pajarito characterized it as one that far exceeded his own goals and that of the city under the Berry administration. He said the project resulted in about 800 million non-unique impressions, a number that includes social media activity, visits to the ABQic.com website, and compounding from the audiences of various publications that covered the city as a result of the campaign.

Pajarito said the project, at the behest of the city, was focused primarily on “inspiring entrepreneurs to start or scale up their businesses in Albuquerque based on the cost of living, the cost of doing business, and the cost of recruiting qualified talent.” A key obstacle to that was raising awareness about the area, according to Pajarito, as most audiences demonstrated “a lack of awareness (about Albuquerque). Not low awareness, but no awareness.”

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