So, I opened up a can of comments after my last post, “The Sustainable Tourism Equation.”
In that post, I attempted to convey the indisputable fact that in order for Adirondack communities to benefit economically from any increased tourism activity (resulting from increased marketing), those communities have to have cash registers in place to collect the money. If there’s no place to buy anything in a town (retail, restaurant, attraction, lodging), the visitors can’t contribute to the economy there. In other words, marketing is just part of the overall equation.
The comments on that post, however, drifted a bit from the topic. Some readers revisited the value of our wilderness product, and many echoed a familiar theme: everyone from marketing experts to self-proclaimed hermits all agree that someone should promote the collective “Adirondack experience” to the traveling public.
In reading those comments, I came to a few realizations.
First, those of us in the industry are so busy actually planning, developing and implementing Adirondack destination marketing strategies that we don’t prioritize telling those for whom we work so hard – the region’s residents - what we’re up to.
Second, it would take more than one post to cover it all.
And third, I should try to unravel this mystery anyway, and it’s best to start with the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council.
For just one park, we have more than our share of acronyms: ANCA, DEC, AMC, TNC, AARCH, AATV, APA… the list goes on. Understanding the jurisdiction and mission for each of them is admittedly confusing.
I will reiterate that it would be ideal if someone waved a magic wand to allow for the implementation of one collective, undiluted, Blue Line-specific marketing effort for the Adirondacks. As it is, each business and community has its own approach to promotion.
However, there is one entity charged with promoting the region as a whole; the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (ARTC).
The ARTC has implemented a cooperative marketing strategy for over 25 years. With an average annual budget of about $800,000, that’s about $20 million worth of Adirondack brand promotion.
And they don’t do it in a vacuum. All of the region’s counties are in on it. And they continue to collaborate because it WORKS.
The ARTC is a consortium of the County Tourism Promotion Agencies (TAP’s) in the State-designated the I Love New York Adirondack Region – (which is not Blue Line-specific as several of the County lines cross that boundary).
Seven counties comprise the I Love New York Adirondack Region; Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Lewis, St. Lawrence, and Warren. Each of the counties has designated a tourism promotion agent (TPA), whose representative serves on the ARTC board of directors.
The ARTC employs an executive director, who facilitates and implements an agreed-upon marketing strategy that meets the regional TPAs’ collective goals.
The ARTC also operates the Beekmantown Information Center on southbound Interstate 87 – a major entrance to the Adirondack Park from Canada. This center also serves as the ARTC administrative headquarters.
AND THE FUNDING SOURCE?
Each of the counties applies for I Love New York matching funds marketing money annually, and the amount they each designate for the region becomes the cooperative marketing program funding for the ARTC.
The ARTC also applies for matching funds for the region itself. As these are “matched” funds, the ARTC must provide its own money for the match (not the counties’ designated funds). To do this, the organization solicits corporate sponsorship when possible, and sells advertisements in its promotional materials which include the website, printed collateral, and promotional emails.
The I Love New York matching funds application process is complex, and requires a decoder ring to fully explain. In short, though, county applications are submitted for the maximum award they can match, based on estimates of the total funding that will be available in the state budget. ILNY determines the amount of the awards for county and regional TPA matching funds once both the total application amounts and budget allocation are known.
Here’s what you wanted to know: So what is the ARTC doing to promote the Adirondack experience?
Advertising: One of the commenters on my last post made it sound easy. They said: “Remember the I Love N.Y. commercials? There is not any reason the Adirondacks can’t have an equally catchy tune or phrase in a commercial that people will see nation wide. The only problem is some one has to think of one. Then turn it into a commercial.”
Easy peasy, eh? Well, let’s take a look at reality.
First, the Adirondacks are largely a drive-to destination. A nationwide, or international campaign is logical for New York City or Los Angeles, but with limited marketing dollars, doesn’t it make sense to target the millions of potential visitors who live within a day’s drive of the Adirondack Park?
Second, the development and implementation of the ILNY “catchy tune” and international campaign cost millions of dollars every year. We’re lucky, because as an enticing destination within the ILNY purview, we can ride on the State’s established coattails. But the idea of creating an Adirondack logo or jingle to scale with the ILNY brand is a pipe dream.
Third, a commercial that people will see nationwide, again, is out of the question, monetarily. I‘m no expert on TV ads buys, so I asked my buddy Tom Connors at Adworkshop, a marketing agency in Lake Placid, to provide me with some numbers.
As an example, Tom provided me with more information than I wanted to understand about buying TV in New York City. This designated marketing area (DMA) is extremely expensive because there are 7.4 million households, (as compared to Los Angeles at 5.6 million and Chicago at 3.5).
As I understood it, there are two basic ways to buy TV in the NYC DMA. One is to buy spots on the cable networks. There are 47 cable zones in the NYC DMA. One could buy one 30-second spot over 10 networks, 10 times per week at $125-200/spot, and those ads would show sometime between 4pm and midnight. So, 10 30-second spots during this time period would cost between $12,500-$20,000 per week.
The other way to buy TV is via a point system on the major networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX). Depending on the show, there is a cost per point, and a 30 second spot would cost a different amount per point, depending on the broadcast time. For example, then, an ad during the morning Today Show would cost about $1,500. According to Tom, it would cost about $35-40,000 per week for a very moderate NYC network schedule.
TV: This all sounds negative, but I wanted to provide perspective. The ARTC marketing strategy does include advertising. But unlike, say, throwing darts at the sun, it is highly targeted to generate leads and show a return.
The ARTC TV summer campaign geo-targeted 5,600,000 households in the NYC/NJ, Rochester, Albany, and Buffalo DMA’s. These are interactive TV ads, which are only served to those households in the target market that have the digital receiver. In this media, when your ad runs, the consumer sees a message – and they can click a button on their remote to see more information and request materials, and in most instances, they also see the longer, three-minute version of the ad, which is a video showcasing our breathtaking region.
PR: The ARTC implements an aggressive public relations campaign in order to “position the Adirondacks as a civilized wilderness destination located within a days drive for more than 25 percent of the entire North American population, allowing a myriad of opportunities for outdoor recreation in a natural setting”. To accomplish this, ARTC contracts an agency to maintain momentum in both traditional and digital media outlets and to spread travel writers throughout the region to broaden coverage and showcase each area – all in collaboration with ILNY and the TPAs.
Promotional emails: The ARTC has a database of email addresses which represent leads generated from advertising and inquiries. They are segmented into interest topics and zip code, allowing for targeted emails promoting Adirondack fishing opportunities to those visitors who indicated that they are interested in fishing, for example.
Online: The ARTC also utilizes pay-per-view (PPV) ad campaigns on YouTube (the second largest search engine after Google). This campaign specifically targeted the Montreal and Ottawa markets in 2012.
And, the ARTC implemented web banner ads for specific niche markets such as fishing, and a targeted campaign for fall in the western New York markets in Syracuse and Rochester this year.
Website: www.visitadirondacks.com Over 90 percent of all travel research is conducted online, and a destination website is a critical part of an overall marketing strategy. The ARTC site provides visitor resources representing the entire region, including activities, lodging, events, trip planner, itineraries, group resources and more. The content is designed with search engine optimization in mind.
The intent of the website, in meeting the collective needs of the county TPA’s, is to welcome potential first-time Adirondack visitors who are then able to “drill down” to the individual county websites for detailed destination information about, say, Long Lake or Lake George.
Printed collateral: The ARTC develops several printed pieces/brochures on topics of interest for fulfillment and distribution. These include hiking, paddling, fishing, snowmobiling, scenic byways and more. These are used for distribution throughout the region at information centers, and for fulfillment via mail upon request as a result of advertising.
In the case of the interactive TV, when people request more information via their remote control, their contact information is sent to the ARTC fulfillment house – and the ARTC sends them a package of materials. This co-op mailing is paid for by the county TPA’s, to scale with the weight of their specific fulfillment materials.
Social: This is all enhanced by social networking presence – primarily on Facebook and Twitter.
Well, speaking on behalf of the TPA for Essex County, the ARTC cooperative regional marketing approach works.
As a shining example, the 2010 TV campaign leads resulted in a 45 percent conversion rate in Essex County. That means that of those who asked for information, 45 percent of them actually CAME HERE to visit!
In 2012, among other notable activities, the ARTC public relations campaign has garnered a number of placements in top tier media, including Outside Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Fox News, ABC, CNN and the Travel Channel.
Also in 2012, the summer geo-targeted TV campaign alone garnered 15,547 direct responses. The website generated 13,807 brochure requests to date. And website visits continue to go up – 15 percent over 2011. And we’re providing the detailed destination information that visitors seek; there were 74,246 outbound clicks from visitadirondacks.com to the TPA websites (through October, 2012).
A MODEL FOR THE REST OF THE STATE
Many of the comments I’ve seen recently focus on how balkanized the Adirondacks are, and how each municipality is in competition with the rest.
Although residents feel there is great competition within the region, the fact is, for YEARS, the NYS Division of Tourism has been asking ARTC representatives: “How do you work so well together?” The ARTC – seven counties successfully, consistently collaborating for 25 years – is held up as the ideal model for the entire State of New York.
As residents of the Adirondacks, it’s unlikely that we’ll see any of the targeted campaigns meant to drive leads generation and visitation to the region. But you’re in luck! I’ve got some direct links here to the creative – so check them out!