28 NOV 2017: Last week our story on Brand USA’s choices of a New Zealand owned, Chicago based company to back up a new Canadian based regional sales director, somewhat light on the necessary experience and qualifications, caused a lot of comment all of which, both public and private, unequivocally agreed that the selection was - let’s put it politely - curious. So, we thought we would look a little further.

First, we checked the other regions where Brand USA has representation and what companies they chose.

• In Brazil and China, Brand USA is represented by Aviareps which was founded in Germany in 1994, and has since developed into a large International entity. They have offices in the US, Asia, Africa, Europe, Russia, Australia, India, Latin America, South East Asia and the CIS countries (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.)

• In India, they chose Sartha Marketing – Indian owned and located there.

• Brand Story is a South East Asia based firm with offices in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. They represent Brand USA (unsurprisingly) in Taiwan, Hong Kong and South East Asia.

• Gate 7 based in Sydney, Australia, does the job in Australia and New Zealand.

• European based BrandMasters was the company chosen to represent Brand USA in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

• British company Hills Balfour was chosen for the UK and Ireland.

So then, why did they depart from their usual policy of using a local company, or one that was essentially a multi-national that had all the bells and whistles required?

chicago_toronto

Why the changes? Why Chicago? Why suddenly a PR manager from Tourism Toronto?

There are connections - or coincidences - or both.

Cathleen Domanico

Cathleen (Cathy) Domanico is vice president, Global Trade Development for Brand USA. She manages international global service accounts and creates new trade partnerships. In that position she certainly would have a large say in the selection of a Brand USA partner in whatever country.

Domanico joined Brand USA in March 2016. For 11 years prior to that she was the vice president, Tourism, for Choose Chicago where she managed domestic and international programmes. She was responsible for developing Choose Chicago’s strategic sales and marketing plans unique to each country, overseeing airline and tour operator destination trainings, managed trade and consumer promotions, familiarization tours, and sales missions.

David Whitaker

In May 2015, David Whitaker joined Brand USA as chief marketing officer. For the previous eight years, Torontonians may recall him as president and CEO of Tourism Toronto, before that he spent 17 years at the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In June 2016 Whitaker left Brand USA to lead Choose Chicago as the new president & CEO.

Michelle Revuelta

In September 2016, as Choose Chicago’s president & CEO, Whitaker hired Michelle Revuelta as vice president of Media Relations. Revuelta had served as director of Media Relations for Tourism Toronto for the previous nine years.

Karly Melo

Karly Melo would obviously know Whitaker from their time at Tourism Toronto and Revuelta would likely have been her immediate boss there. Certainly, Whitaker knew Domanico if only from their time together at Brand USA. It wouldn’t be unusual for either him or Revuelta to suggest to her a former staffer - and really there’s nothing wrong with that.

What is wrong, is that Brand USA has hired someone who given the stated requirements of their RFP, does not have the qualifications for the job.

Brand USA has had an RFP out since late August. It was due to announce the ‘Notice of Intent to award the contract’ on October 20. It finally did spring its surprise choice on November 22. The RFP is complex and complicated, and it beggars belief that Melo, given her experience against those of the companies she would have been up against, submitted the best proposal. And just as an aside, changing one’s work experience on Linkedin after the fact, is never smart.

TimeZone One

TimeZoneOne may have all the qualifications and experience in the world – but according to an internal Brand USA memo, “In her new role as regional director for Brand USA in Canada, she (Melo) will associate with the agency TimeZoneOne and make use of the firm’s team.”

So how actually does that work? How could TimeZoneOne – a Chicago (there’s that city again) branch of a New Zealand company – possibly provide a “more focused and effective (approach) in Canada as we (Brand USA) build upon and expand a fully integrated program of global trade development, consumer marketing, and cooperative marketing platforms and programs.”

They can do that better than a Canadian company based in Canada can? Wow!

Sometimes we can only ask the questions. But there should be answers. Canada is entitled to at least that.

The original story: Whisky Tango Foxtrot

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