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Tourism Department selects Santa Fe firm to head up advertising

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The state Tourism Department has picked a new Santa Fe firm to spearhead its New Mexico True advertising campaign.

The department on Thursday announced the selection of Talweg Creative as its “advertising agency of record.” The four-year contract begins July 1 and is worth $7 million in the first year, with the potential to grow in subsequent years based on the department’s budget.

The state chose Talweg from among eight companies that submitted proposals, Tourism Secretary Rebecca Latham said. Applicants included the state’s current agency, Austin-based Blackboard Co.

The department had faced criticism in past years over its use of out-of-state contractors, but Latham said Talweg earned the contract on its merits and not on its Santa Fe location.

“I think what’s important is that we have the best agency to tell the New Mexico True story,” Latham said. “So while it’s great that they’re based in Santa Fe, what’s most important is they’re the best (for) taking our brand to the next level.”

Talweg’s contract represents most of the department’s $9.35 million fiscal year 2016 marketing budget. Talweg takes over duties the state currently spreads among Blackboard and three other agencies — including Talweg, which has recently produced “New Mexico True Stories,” a series of videos highlighting the people, places and adventures that make the state unique.

Talweg is a relatively new firm, having formed last December. It has five employees today, but founder Ryan Heffernan said it will scale as necessary to manage the state contract — currently its largest piece of business.

The agency may be young as a company, but Heffernan noted that all of its principals have previous experience working with the Tourism Department and the New Mexico True brand. The state deployed the brand three years ago and has used it consistently since.

Heffernan — who said he was “thrilled and honored” to land the tourism contract — said Talweg will stick with New Mexico True but focus on reaching a broader audience with the state’s message.

“This isn’t a revolution; this is definitely an evolution in the sense (that) the foundation remains the same,” Heffernan said. “New Mexico True is here to stay and a really powerful brand; it’s just about evolving it.”