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Advertising Agency RFP

Discover Durham, the official tourism marketing and sales agency of Durham, NC, seeks agency partners to work with us on media planning and execution.

We are committed to generating awareness, engagement and conversion – reinforcing Durham as an attractive visitor destination – and are looking for an Advertising Agency of Record that can be collaborative in that pursuit.


>> View the RFP now. <<


All responses are due to rfp@discoverdurham.com by 12 p.m. ET on Friday, July 16. We know the timeline is aggressive. It is necessary given the timeline of our fiscal year, travel schedules, commitments of when funds are to be used by, campaign start date, etc. No phone calls or visits, please. Please be sure to include your main contact’s name, email address, phone number, and your agency’s site URL in your response.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Discover Durham Marketing Team

Questions from Submitting Agencies

Who is your key target audience/demographic?

Discover Durham’s charge is to bring new and returning visitors to Durham. We concentrate most of our efforts on reaching various psychographics and demographics within a 300-mile radius of the destination. For a sampling overview of our most recent strategic persona work Discover Durham developed in-house, please view our Spring 2021 Audience Brief.

What is your approval process? Who and how many people will be involved in the decision-making of the project deliverables?

While many on Discover Durham’s team who will support the direction, development, and execution of the campaign, there are three key decision-makers within the Marketing & Partnerships team who will be key contacts for the Advertising Agency of Record: Cara Rousseau, VP of Marketing & Partnerships, Jonathan Lee, Creative Director, and Margaret Pentrack, Director of Content & PR.

How big is your internal marketing team? Which, if any, services do you manage exclusively in-house?

Presently, there are 10 people on the Marketing & Partnerships’ team roster. We have the skillset to manage most, if not all, campaign-related tasks (creative development, video production, social and digital advertising, content writing, etc.) in-house, but occasionally freelance out various components to assist with workloads. For the fall 2020 and spring 2021 campaign run dates, all creative was designed and produced in-house, for example.

Who do you look to as comparators? i.e. aspirational destinations/organizations?

We typically keep an eye on what other mid-sized, landlocked urban destinations are doing across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. We don’t have the mountains or the beach, but we make our own waves – we gain inspiration from other brands (tourism-related and others) that are effective in conveying an unapologetic personality.

How do you currently measure marketing effectiveness and success?

For the last leg of the Rediscover Durham campaign, we identified endpoints for each of the personas that converted them from short-term paid prospects to longer-term subscribers/followers of our organic content channels that we could reengage past that campaign leg. While emerging from the pandemic, we have strived to be effective in balancing our messaging with health and safety guidelines, tracking sentiment as much as we measure increases in brand awareness.

What percent of your current visitors are within the state of North Carolina?

Pre-pandemic, a few of our top feeder markets for overnight visitors within the state included Charlotte, Raleigh, Greenville-New Bern-Washington. Of all overnight visitors that came to Durham in 2019, 36% came from North Carolina.

Can you provide the key out-of-state markets you are looking to attract to Durham?

Targeted geo-markets from the last leg of the Rediscover Durham campaign can be found in the Spring 2021 Audience Brief. Besides North Carolina, other notable states of origin include Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, New York, and Georgia. Durham over-indexes on travelers who come to visit friends or relatives.

Are you looking for a media plan recommendation as part of the proposal submission?

No. We’re expecting for proposals to be focused more on an agency’s approach to campaign development and media planning/buying.

What are KPIs of the main website?

We launched a new website and domain in 2020 and are still working to maintain (and regain) new users. We prioritize content engagement by monitoring and setting goals for time spent on page as well as number of pages visited. Discover Durham recently completed an SEO audit project and is working towards implementing recommendations on improving search traffic to the site. We have implemented a “social-first” strategy for our online content and closely watch how social drives referral traffic.

Which media tactics have worked the best for you and why?

As of late, we’ve leaned the most into digital to be as effective with our budgets and targeting as possible. Our most recent campaign ran on SEM, digital banners, and a variety of social media channels.

Are marketing dollars funded primarily through ROTs? Or are there additional sources of funding (grants, city/county budgets, etc.)?

Traditionally, marketing dollars are funded primarily through occupancy taxes collected in Durham County. During the pandemic, we have sought and secured public recovery funding for this integrated campaign from the City and County.

How have you judged campaign success/attributed travelers to marketing in the past? Attribution models? If not direct links to bookings, are there any key intent indicators that you’ve used as KPIs? Balance of focus between day trips and overnight stays?

Our website functionality does not include bookings, so we must identify key intent indicators as KPIs. The Spring 2021 Audience Brief includes some of the user journey mapping and conversion paths we strategically brainstormed prior to the start of the Rediscover Durham campaign for each persona. We do prioritize building campaigns and developing content that will encourage more overnight stays and longer trips to maximize visitor spending.

What level of Arrivalist programs/data are you using for FY21-22? Utilizing arrivals/location data only? Or also marketing exposure? Have you previously worked with them before?

We plan to utilize Arrivalist as a conversion tracking tool for this upcoming campaign, either in partnership with the media agency or through a marketing co-op program through Visit NC, the state tourism agency. Both arrivals/location data and marketing exposure are analytics that we would like to pursue. We previously used the Arrivalist tool in a campaign in the fall of 2019.

Within overnight stays, have the origination locations shifted since the pandemic (and how?)

We have not yet commissioned a new visitor profile and/or are waiting on quantitative data to become available to know how visitor behavior has formally shifted. That said, following national industry trends and anecdotal evidence, we focused targeting in-state more than we ever have before during lockdowns and emergency orders. With 80%+ of Americans planning a trip within the next 3 months, we anticipate that the August-October 2021 campaign will expand out geotargets to be more in line with pre-pandemic targeting.