Website, Summer Marketing and The End of Spring Break?

by April 14, 2009 • 4 comments

The Website is coming! The Website is coming! I’m totally excited, the city is excited and, with an ultra-comprehensive summer media marketing campaign, everyone will be excited. . . or theoretically persuaded to be excited… about the new PCB website. The socially interactive site is determined to rebrand PCB using promotions like a video competition, social media networking, microblogging and even username and passwords for local business to update their individual pages.

Marketing dollars are being spent, in partnership with Buffalo Rock, to drive summer bookings and launch the new branding campaign. Buffalo Rock will provide large exposure in the form of Pepsi wrappers, shelves and displays throughout the Southeast. This is only a portion of the whole plan. The rich media campaign will focus on promoting Panama City Beach as a destination using the message “Real.Fun.Beach.” and saturate the target market with repetitive engagement.

Who’s the target market you ask? Well, based on reports from Y partnership, the TDC’s advertising and marketing partner, the primary targets are Atlanta, Birmingham and Nashville and the media mix for the campaign breaks down like this: 40% cable advertising, 30% online, 24% outdoor and 6% magazine. That means television promo ads on stations like CNN, ESPN and others. That means a greater internet exposure from previous years (around 7-9% in past years) and a stronger focus on the market. All this to channel tourists to a website packed with enough umph to make them want to visit our great city.

The money spent and future spending has been validated by the Klages report numbers from the previous quarter. While other destinations throughout the state are in the red, in nearly every category Panama City Beach is up. Based on the Klages report, total average daily hotel rates so far are up from last year’s numbers by 12.4%. Last year’s total economic impact was $975,379,655.00 and winter 2009 numbers are already up 9%. That’s some tasty cream.

But not all the news from the meeting was good. Previous marketing dollars, specifically Spring Break, took complaints from the audience. Several community members spoke on behalf of distancing PCB from spring break entirely. It is well documented that Spring Break complaints are an annual occurrence; every year SB happens and every year people complain. But this year’s round of complaints hit hard with passion. Mark Canfora, a local businessman, actually came to tears and bashed the Lil Wayne concert and charged the artist with provoking the spring break incidents throughout the beach.

Jennifer Etheridge, a member of the sales team at Ocean Villa, said some of her owners were considering suing the city of PCB for negligence because they couldn’t rent their rooms. The sentiment was felt by some of the board members as well, focusing their attention on MTVu rather than spring break as a whole. Andy Phillips said, “Spring Break will be here whether we throw a million dollars into marketing or nothing at all.” He added, “I think MTV was a waste of $150,000. Plain and simple.” MTV met their contractual agreement, generating the amount of web impressions, unique visitors and television promotions as promised, but turned out to be difficult to work with as a partner to the TDC.

An example of the relationship was the show “Wasted Memories” which was supposed to be a show that followed Spring Breakers around and at the end of their stay tested how much they remembered. The show turned out to be completely different than what was promised and is still a PR nightmare for a beach trying to change its image. But, amid all the anger towards spring break, most beach businesses did well financially. Mr. Phillips acknowledged this by saying, “It is a double-edged sword and a difficult process.”

The board leaned heavily towards not spending money in the future on the likes of MTV, but recognized how what was learned from the experience of working with them would help in the use of summer marketing dollars.

In related news, Dan Rowe, Chairman of the TDC went up for review and received a 7% increase in salary. Based on the committee’s review parameters Mr. Rowe scored “very effective” on a scale that ranged from ineffective to outstanding. Good work, Dan. Can’t wait to see how the summer campaign turns out.

Click Here To Download The Focus Group Presention

Click Here To Download The Summer Media Plan

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Leave a Comment




1 Jason Koertge April 14, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Excellent report Cebo, thanks for covering this for us. Again, welcome aboard and great work.


2 Kirk Lancaster April 15, 2009 at 9:48 pm

I agree, I’m excited about the new website and marketing campaigns. Here are thoughts/questions I took away from yesterday’s meeting.

The new bed tax was pushed for years to increase our marketing ability. Now that we have it, you see cable tv campaigns, outdoor and online, in the right markets (drive!) and to the right targets. (At least some of the right targets if not most.) This is a big step, and I sure hope we’re measuring it and I sure hope it works. This campaign finally looks like what you’re supposed to get when you hire top-notch marketing / advertising agencies.

I wonder who came up with the term “Real Fun Beach?” I think (hope) that moniker is going to stick, and that person should receive credit now for the history books.

The focus group studies are powerful. We need to really listen to what the market thinks of Panama City Beach. Some perceptions are accurate; some are complete misconceptions. We have an opportunity to win immediate new visitors by correcting the misconceptions. We must simultaneously work to correct the problems that cause the true perceptions… litter, noise, lawlessness, offensive public behavior, and as one pastor pointed out yesterday, outdoor public orgies.)

Spring break is not the only thing that gives PCB a bad rep. When someone does know Panama City Beach, they know us as a “redneck” and lower class. We need to become known as a fun place for many classes / demographics of society. We need to welcome anyone from anywhere as long as they obey the laws.

As a successful local businessman and friend told me a couple years back, “Kirk, this place is ‘Budweiser and cheese grits’, and it’s always going to be ‘Budweiser and cheese grits.'” I’ve discovered that when you cross over into South Walton, it instantly becomes “Cakebread and polenta.” And I guess that’s just the way it’s going to be.

Also a very important announcement at yesterday’s meeting… Marcia Bush has been serving that office for 32 years. Wow, she has put up with some stuff. I’m pretty sure she was just a teenager when she started. Congratulations and thanks go out to Marcia Bush.


3 Kirk Lancaster April 22, 2009 at 9:26 am
4 Kirk Lancaster April 29, 2009 at 7:15 am

Hey Cebo, any updates from CVB about launch of new website?