printed 08/09/2019

Ocean City Council critic Tony Christ is wrong when he asserts that municipal spending on advertising is a waste of money. It is only a waste if it has no positive effect relative to the amount being spent.

Despite the conflict of interest we have as a publication that’s dependent on advertising for income — we get a small amount from the Town of Ocean City — it remains that advertising is critical to any successful business or operation.

Opinions vary on which media to use, what percentage of revenue should be set aside for marketing, and which approach would work best for the idea or product to be sold, but rare would be the argument by any solid enterprise that letting people know who you are, what you have and where you have it is a bad idea.

More than a few people have contended that Ocean City’s advertising should be the responsibility of businesses alone. That would work, too, if the hundreds of resort businesses that spend millions of advertising dollars every year could be convinced to deliver a universal marketing message about Ocean City overall (and their competitors) instead of promoting themselves and their own products.

Since that would be impossible, the only way to measure advertising success or failure is to assess how the return stacks up against the investment.

Sound easy? It isn’t, since advertising generates direct results, indirect results, short-term results and long-term results. It also depends on whether the advertising material is trying to sell a specific product or a brand, so, in the latter instance, a potential customer will recall a particular advertiser when he or she is in town or in the market today or next year.

The bottom line, people will argue, is whether sales go up or down, and even that’s not true. It’s also possible that keeping the message before the public is responsible for retaining an audience, when other factors would have dragged it down.

All this makes it difficult to say, with any authority, that the city’s advertising is a waste of money. That just isn’t necessarily so.

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