The advertising agency behind the BC Liberal government's $335,000 online campaign against the striking B.C. Teachers' Federation is the same company that designed the party's logo, and its founder boasts a long association with Premier Christy Clark.
BCParentInfo.ca is a U.S.-hosted website that carries the government's side in the dispute with public school teachers, including news releases and statements from Education Minister Peter Fassbender. It also includes a link to the online form for parents seeking the government's $40-a-day compensation plan. The Ministry of Education confirmed the advertising and design contractor is Kimbo Design Inc. of Vancouver. The contract was not publicly tendered.
Ministry senior public affairs officer Scott Sutherland said Kimbo was "selected from a list of approved suppliers. To ensure consistency and compliance with procurement policy, a representative from the purchasing services branch led the development of the procurement process."
Individual government service contracts worth $75,000 or more must be advertised unless the need is urgent, the supplier is uniquely qualified or the government fears open bidding would compromise confidentiality. Government procurement rules, however, require ministries use corporate supply arrangements where available. In this case, Kimbo is on the Government Communications and Public Engagement (GCPE) two-year standing offer list created after the Liberals won re-election.
On June 6, 2013, the day before Clark announced her post-election cabinet, GCPE advertised for applications from advertising, research and web design and development companies to join a preferred supplier list.
Kimbo was among 23 companies chosen from 33 applicants for if-and-when required assignments. Applicants were told assignments would be sent to one or more companies on the standing-offer list at GCPE discretion and that contracts may not always be based on lowest price.
Kimbo behind Liberal makeover
The Kimbo corporate website describes the company as a full-service ad agency specializing in web design, branding, campaign design advertising and print. In an Aug. 14-published profile on TheStoryExchange.org, Kimbo principal and creative director Kim Pickett considered her biggest branding success to be Clark's victorious leadership campaign in 2011.
Pickett said that she also worked on Clark's unsuccessful bid to become the NPA candidate for Vancouver's mayoralty in 2005 and that Kimbo redesigned the BC Liberals' logo for the 2013 campaign.
"When I first met Christy Clark, it was working on branding her Vancouver mayoral campaign. Although she didn't win, I knew one day that she would achieve something greater," Pickett said. "The sparkle in her eye and the way she presented herself when she entered a room was truly mesmerizing.
"In 2011, Christy returned to politics and I was called upon to help brand her campaign. She is the second and longest-serving woman to serve as the Premier of British Columbia. We redesigned the now-iconic winning BC Liberals logotype -- the circular 'B.C. flag' which was predominately used in the 2013 provincial re-election. Kimbo Design is now known for being campaign veterans and has grown a reputation as the go-to agency for winning political branding campaigns."
A story in Metro News Vancouver the morning after the May 14, 2013 election quoted a supporter named Kim Pickett at the BC Liberals' victory party, who said: "The media has painted a picture that the NDP is going to win. The NDP, what they did 12 years ago... people don't want to go back to that."
Worked on Jobs Plan ads
Kimbo did not appear in the Public Accounts list of suppliers of goods and services for 2012-2013, but in 2013-2014 it was paid $666,905 for government work. Kimbo's website said it was involved in the "digital strategy, website development and online advertising campaign" for the B.C. Jobs Plan campaign through GCPE.
Until July, GCPE was headed by longtime Clark associate and deputy minister Athana Mentzelopoulos, who was transferred to Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. GCPE's acting deputy minister is John Paul Fraser, who was a partner until the end of May 2006 in the Burrard Communications lobbying firm with Clark's then-husband Mark Marissen. Fraser's father is B.C.'s Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser.
Earlier this year, Kimbo redesigned Vision Vancouver's logo for the ruling civic party's 2014 re-election campaign. The new logo features a green, white and blue dome or arc above "Vision" in big, bold, blue capital letters. Beneath is the substantially smaller and lighter, lower-case Vancouver. The previous logo gave equal billing to Vision and Vancouver.
BCParentInfo.ca was registered Aug. 6 and updated Aug. 11 via Arizona-based GoDaddy. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act says personal information under control or custody of a public body must be stored and accessed only in Canada. Sutherland said personal information is taken on the linked parent registration site, "which is on a different URL on secure government servers."
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