Ocean City Officials Debate How Best To Advertise To Potential Visitors | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

Ocean City Officials Debate How Best To Advertise To Potential Visitors

Rodney, Ocean City's official tourism pitchman, has become the center of a debate over how the shore destination should spend its advertising dollars.
Rodney, Ocean City's official tourism pitchman, has become the center of a debate over how the shore destination should spend its advertising dollars.

In Maryland, the decision to extend the contract for Ocean City’s advertising company has renewed an intense battle over the town’s $5 million ad budget. When tourism is the number one game in town, even a “day at the beach” can become political.

If you look at the numbers, Ocean City has outperformed competing beach destinations on the East Coast by a pretty sizable margin since the economy tanked in 2008.

And while preliminary tourism statistics indicate the resort was up a few percentage points from last summer, opinions from business community about the summer of 2013 range from “smashing success” to “total epic fail.”

Greg Shockley owns an Irish pub called Shenanigans on the Boardwalk, and also sits on the town’s tourism advisory board and chairs the state’s tourism development board.

“I don’t think we’ve grown a lot and I don’t think we’ve declined a lot, but those dollars have helped us maintain what we have," he says.

Those dollars he’s referring to are the $5 million in Ocean City’s tourism advertising budget, which is funded by a dedicated percentage of the city’s room tax revenue. It’s performance based, and in hindsight, Shockley says the 2007 legislative change by the Ocean City Council enabled the town to not have to slash their ad budget like the state or even their competitors did when the recession hit.

But as that money continues to add up, the political power struggle over how that money is spent intensifies. “I think it all goes back to control… people want to say they rubber-stamped it, they put their hands on the agency and the campaign," says Susan Jones, the executive director of the Ocean City Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Association.

The main debate is over Rodney, the beefcake lifeguard with the Jim Carrey-sized smile who's become the face of Ocean City’s advertising. So when the advertising company’s contract with the town was renewed without the council testing the market for new companies or ideas, Rodney’s critics realized they were stuck with the character for at least one more summer—and they say he doesn’t tug on enough heartstrings to attract what they see as the resort’s tourism base.

Jones and Shockley agree that a resolution could come from a clearer definition of who Ocean City is trying to market to, and maybe then they say answering the resort’s $5 million advertising question will be a bit easier.

NPR

Among The Young And Privileged In North Korea

American journalist Suki Kim spent six months teaching English at a North Korean University that serves the sons of the elite. She chronicles her experience in a new book, Without You, There Is No Us.
NPR

From NFL To 'Scandal,' Whole Foods Buys TV Ads To Boost Its Brand

A pioneer in selling organic, sustainable groceries, Whole Foods now finds itself beset by competitors. So it's launching its first national ad blitz to sell socially conscious consumers on its story.
NPR

Concern Over New-Voter Registration In Georgia Ahead Of Election

A lawsuit in Georgia claims more than 40,000 voter registration applications are missing weeks before the November midterm election. Lawyers say they belong to new African-American, Latino and Asian-American voters. But state officials say all applications have been processed.
NPR

In Silicon Valley, Paying For Access To Peace Of Mind

The San Francisco area is the home to the high-tech sector and has a history of embracing Eastern spirituality. Now the two meet in the yoga and meditation classes popular with the local tech workers.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.