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At a glance
The three slogans featured in Indiana's Time Square marketing campaign are:
•”We're not only a workforce, but a force that works”
•”We're at the crossroads of what's possible and what's next”
•”Integrity is our complexion, innovation is our currency”
Source: Indiana Economic Development Corp.
YouTube, Inc

iedc.in.gov
Indiana economic development officials are running a series of 15-second ads on the digital billboard in New York City's Times Square.

A bargain or a bust, Indiana all aglitter at Times Square

Indiana's self-promotion has made it all the way to the bright lights of Broadway.

Or, more precisely: Times Square.

The marketing campaign, "A State that Works," was designed by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to lure businesses to relocate to the Hoosier state.

The 15-second spots – two each hour – began running on the digital billboard in Times Square in mid-August, the state announced Thursday. The crowd that passes the CBS Super Screen on 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues is estimated at 1.5 million daily.

Like everything in New York City, the exposure is expensive. The question is: Is it worth it?

The cost for two 15-second ads an hour for October and November alone is almost $100,000, according to the rate card published by Toronto firm Neutron Media.

And, yes, those are American dollars.

But wait … there's more. That price doesn't include half of August, all of September or December. Holiday rates – which are charged in December – are even higher than October or November.

So, at usual rates, the full advertising package would cost well over $200,000. Maybe even more than $300,000.

Katelyn Hancock, IEDC spokeswoman, said Indiana was able to secure the full run of promos for the low, low price of $65,000.

"CBS actually reached out to the IEDC with the opportunity. One of their current customers was going through a rebranding and dropped out of the slot at the last minute," she said Tuesday in an email.

"CBS was in a hurry to get the slot filled and needed to find someone that wasn't a competitor of their current advertisers," she said. "Thus, they reached out to the IEDC with a really good deal."

But some local advertising experts are more than skeptical that the exposure is worth even a bargain basement price.

Barry LaBov, founder of LaBov & Beyond, a local advertising agency, wonders about the strategy.

"The best thing that you try to do in advertising is find your market and really try to target that market," he said.

LaBov doubts that many of the millions of people who see a Times Square message actually have the authority to move a business to Indiana.

"I would wonder if targeting businesses (directly) would be a little more efficient," he said.

Nancy Wright, CEO of Ferguson Advertising, echoed the concern.

"It seems like it's kind of a diluted audience," she said of the tourists and commuters rushing through Times Square daily. "I just think the targeting seems very bizarre."

Wright agreed that is a good price for exposure on CBS' Panasonic-brand digital billboard for more than four months.

"But, in my humble opinion, it doesn't seem to be the right target audience to get to the decision-makers," she said. "It's still $65,000."

That amount of money would go a long way if spent on print ads in specialty publications routinely read by corporate executives and site selection professionals, Wright said.

Paige Webster is among Indiana's target audience.

The owner of Webster Global Site Selectors, an Arizona-based firm, advises companies scouting for locations to expand operations.

Webster compared Indiana's Times Square ads to the splash our neighbor to the north has made with its "Pure Michigan" campaign.

That slogan, he said, "has just escalated nationwide." The campaign captures the quality of life that Michigan offers its residents, Webster said.

That characteristic can boost both tourism and economic development, he said.

Webster, who is now pitching his firm's services to the Indiana Economic Development Corp., formerly worked for Arizona's Commerce Department.

That experience, he said, gives him perspective the typical Indiana taxpayer wouldn't have when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of the Times Square advertising blitz.

"Trust me, if I wasn't in this business, I'd be questioning it, too," he said.

Webster routinely sees state economic development marketing campaigns that are fueled by millions of dollars. States that don't play the game – at least on a limited scale – get left on the sidelines, he said.

"If you want to play with the big dogs, I think they're going in the right direction," he said of Indiana officials.

Webster thinks international visitors to Times Square just might decide to follow up on this Midwestern state that flashed briefly on a billboard there.

What is this Indiana?

"To be honest with you, I think they got a pretty good deal for 65 G's," Webster said. "It escalates the state to the next level."

sslater@jg.net

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