Amarillo Media Competitors Band Together

By: Joe Strupp

Take a look around Amarillo, Texas, these days and you may think there are no competitive media in town. The Amarillo Globe-News is sharing house ads with an outdoor advertiser, area TV stations are coordinating spots with each other, and the local radio market — often the most cutthroat of small-market media — is engaged in a retail marketing group hug.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Garet von Netzer, the Globe-News publisher who spearheaded the marketing plan. “Everyone is on board.”

Why all this feel-good promotion? It’s Amarillo’s response to the economic downturn and general alarm following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America.

Taking a page from President Bush’s playbook for Americans to live their ordinary lives — and keep supporting the U.S. economy — the Amarillo media have combined efforts to launch a campaign aimed at getting residents to spend money locally.

Von Netzer credited the idea to Jim Currow, vice president for metro newspapers at Globe-News parent Morris Communications Corp. in Augusta, Ga. Currow said similar programs have been launched at Morris’ 28 other daily papers. “Retailers like it because it shows we are trying to help them,” Currow told E&P.

The campaign, which began Sept. 28, took the simple slogan “Buy at Home” and plastered it all over town. Via full-page newspaper ads, outdoor billboards, and radio and TV spots, residents are being urged to spend, spend, spend. The promotional plan began with a press conference featuring civic leaders, businessmen, and media executives — broadcast on three local TV network affiliates.

“It’s probably unprecedented for natural competitors to work together on a common goal,” said Amarillo Mayor Trent Sisemore. “But the local media has been very generous.”

Von Netzer estimated that his paper has given about $40,000 worth of advertising space for related ads, while also running at least three stories a week on the campaign and providing pro-purchasing editorials. Still, he admits there is something to be gained for the newspaper, even if no ad revenue increases have been noticed yet. “I think it sends a message to business that we are out here sticking up for them,” he said.

In addition, KGNC Radio created a public-service jingle that it’s sharing with other stations, while the local TV outlets are passing related spots among themselves. Also involved is the local office of Lamar Outdoor Advertising, a Baton Rouge, La.-based company with 1,000 billboards and signs in the area that has donated 30 locations for “Buy at Home” use.

None of the ads promote specific stores, businesses, or areas of town. “We wanted to lift this above any self-serving effort to stimulate advertising in our own mediums,” von Netzer said.

While local economic data is still being collected, business owners said the campaign has paid off. “Changing the mind-set is the most important part,” said Gary Molberg, president of the local chamber of commerce.

Eric Corbyn, manager of Raffkind’s clothing store, agreed. “One customer came in and said, ‘OK, here’s my two shirts, I’ve done my part.'”

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