Adweek reported on the continuing soap-opera-like events involving the U.S. Army account review, with a marketing executive retiring from the military service—probably resulting from his romantic conspiring with a former account person from McCann, the White advertising agency currently serving the account and pitching to retain it. The stock photograph illustrating the story—along with the caption—makes it look like the retired marketing director is returning to his family after a tour of duty.
U.S. Army Marketing Executive Involved in McCann Conflict of Interest Controversy Retires
The investigation into the case continues
By Patrick Coffee
James Ortiz, a marketing director at the U.S. Army’s Army Marketing and Research Group (AMRG), has retired less than four months after Adweek broke news of an allegedly improper relationship between himself and an account executive at McCann Worldgroup, the Army’s agency of record.
The relationship occurred while McCann pitched to retain the Army’s marketing contract, which could be worth up to $4 billion over 10 years, according to the organization’s own estimates. The review is ongoing.
In October 2017, Department of Defense sources provided photographs and video of Ortiz, a 20-year veteran of the Army’s marketing department, and the aforementioned executive together at a club in Virginia following a strategy meeting between McCann and Army representatives.
The McCann executive reportedly resigned soon after the footage was taken in October. At the time the story first broke, the Army confirmed it had launched an internal investigation and that Ortiz had been “removed from all duties associated with the contract and temporarily reassigned within the organization.”
He officially retired last Friday.
“James Ortiz retired as of March 31, 2018,” said an Army spokesperson today. “The investigation is ongoing.”
The representative declined to elaborate on the nature of his resignation, the ongoing investigation or the status of the Army’s marketing review. A McCann spokesperson referred to the Army.
Adweek has been unable to reach Ortiz for comment.
At the same time the controversy made news, the Army was undergoing a formal review of its advertising and marketing budget. This review, launched in mid-2016 by the Army Auditing Agency, questioned the efficiency of several multi-million dollar programs and claimed that they “didn’t demonstrate a positive return.”
The AMRG subsequently defended its practices, writing that the AAA’s conclusions demonstrated a “lack of marketing understanding or criteria for performance assessment.”
Staffers at the U.S. Senate and House Armed Services Committees later called upon Elizabeth Wilson—who assumed the roles of deputy assistant secretary of the Army for marketing and director of the Army Marketing and Research Group last November—to brief them on both the audit and “approaches the Army is considering to improve Army marketing.”
“The meetings were consistent with our relationship with Congress in their oversight role and the Army’s long-standing practice of engaging with congressional stakeholders to provide program updates and exchange ideas for pathways forward,” said an Army spokesperson.
At this time, it is unclear whether Wilson will be called for additional briefings.