Perception and Reality: New York City's Quality of Life is Improving
This interesting New York Times article highlights that NYC wants to be proactive and to fight outdated stereotypes by hiring a Madison Avenue Ad guy to "get the word" out about how great NYC is. The financial benefit of improving its reputation is obvious, there are lots of tourists thinking about visiting NYC who might be lured by this campaign.
New York Times
February 27, 2007
Remaking the City's Image, With 50 Million Tourists in Mind
By PATRICK McGEEHAN
George A. Fertitta has helped sell a lot of pricey Belgian chocolates and French cognac to New Yorkers. Now he has to sell New York to Belgians, Frenchmen and others who may consider the city too costly, too dangerous or too American to visit.
Mr. Fertitta is spearheading Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s campaign to lure 50 million visitors a year to the city by 2015. That would be about six million more out-of-towners than the city, which is riding a long wave of tourism and economic growth, attracted last year.
A Madison Avenue veteran whose ad agency specialized in marketing luxury goods, Mr. Fertitta seems undaunted by the mayor’s goal. Indeed, he told a group of tourism industry executives over lunch last week at the “21” Club that he believed drawing 50 million visitors a year would be “kind of a layup” that could be achieved three years ahead of schedule.
There is a simple philosophy behind the tourism drive: If this many people will show up in New York with little prodding, imagine how many would come if the city actively encourages them.
To increase the influx, the city is spending more money than ever to promote itself overseas. Fueled by the mayor’s commitment of an additional $15 million a year, the city’s marketing operation, known as NYC & Company, has begun placing billboards in some European cities declaring that with exchange rates in their favor, New York is a relative bargain.
Those ads are aimed at knocking down one negative perception about New York: that it is prohibitively expensive.
An international ad campaign in the works, a first for the city, will try to dispel two other stereotypes: that New Yorkers are exceptionally rude, and that crime is rife in the city. Mr. Fertitta said he would rather foreigners picture “Sex and the City” than “Law & Order.”
Under Mr. Fertitta, NYC & Company has hired an advertising agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, to create the campaign, which is expected to begin later this year.
The marketing operation is also expanding its network of offices in other countries, including Russia and the Netherlands, to tailor its promotions to segments of the local populations, like wealthy older people and adventuresome younger ones.
“We will not waste a nickel of this money,” said Mr. Fertitta, referring to NYC & Company’s annual budget of $45 million, half of which is supplied by City Hall. “That’s why we’re going to make sure we’re fishing where the fish are.”
Mr. Fertitta, who has been chief executive of the revamped NYC & Company since last summer, also wants to turn the organization’s Web site into a local version of Expedia — one where tourists could electronically purchase their transportation, hotel rooms and show tickets.
That idea, however, may be a tougher sell with some directors of NYC & Company, which has 1,900 dues-paying members, mostly travel and tourism companies.
The executives of those companies, led by Jonathan M. Tisch, the chief executive of Loews Hotels, have historically directed the city’s promotional efforts, but their collective clout has now been diluted by the Bloomberg administration’s largess.
The members’ annual dues of about $4.5 million now account for just 10 percent of the operation’s overall budget, shifting power toward the city.
“Given the amount that the city is now contributing, a tilting toward more of a public-private partnership is warranted,” said Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development. “But certainly it is not just reporting to me or to City Hall.”
Still, it is under Mr. Doctoroff’s direction that the city’s marketing operation has been reorganized.
Two other agencies have also been put under Mr. Fertitta’s charge: NYC Big Events, responsible for attracting awards shows and other high-profile events, and NYC Marketing Development Corporation, which licenses the city’s trademarks and sells citywide sponsorships.
And recruiting Mr. Fertitta was Mr. Doctoroff’s doing. He said he had asked several prominent advertising executives, including Keith Reinhard, the chairman emeritus of DDB Worldwide, for recommendations, and Mr. Fertitta’s name kept coming up.
“George is a passionate New Yorker,” Mr. Reinhard said in an interview last week. “He is a consummate marketing guy. He understands brands. He also knows how to build teams.”
Mr. Fertitta made a name for himself on Madison Avenue in the early 1970s when he teamed up with John Margeotes to found an agency that created enticing magazine ads for luxuries like Godiva chocolates, Remy Martin cognac and Cunard cruises.
Mr. Margeotes was the creative director, and Mr. Fertitta, always the first one in the door, ran the business.
“When I got to the office, he’d already done a half-day’s work,” recalled Mr. Margeotes, now an artist living in Massachusetts. “He got out that yellow pad and went down a to-do list and followed it religiously all day long.”
Mr. Fertitta, who still keeps his legal pads and manila folders arranged in a particular order along the edges of his desk, sold the last of his interest in the agency, Margeotes Fertitta Powell, in 2005 and started considering his next move.
He said he had not considered getting involved with city government before he met with Mr. Doctoroff.
The deputy mayor sold him on the need for well-honed, professional marketing skills to continue the tourism surge.
“What we’re really focused on now is taking a strategic look at how we can bring as many people to New York as possible and do it in the most efficient ways possible,” Mr. Doctoroff said.
For his part, Mr. Fertitta, who has lived nearly all his 60 years in Manhattan, sounds like the city’s chief cheerleader.
“New York is at its all-time high in all the positive things and at an all-time low in all the negative things,” Mr. Fertitta said, leaning back in a black chair in his sparse office in a Midtown high-rise.
But he acknowledged that many people in other places did not share that perception. The general reputation of the United States has suffered during the course of the war in Iraq, he said.
“The image of the U.S. is much lower than it was three years ago or five years ago,” Mr. Fertitta said. “The reservoir of goodwill after 9/11 has dissipated.”
Leaving politics aside, he said that of the primary objections that people have to visiting New York, the one most based in reality is the cost.
To change people’s negative views of New York’s grime, crime and prices, he said, the city can piggyback on the invaluable boost it gets from pop-culture cynosures like Carrie Bradshaw, the lead character in “Sex and the City,” the internationally popular TV show.
“To some people, New York City is ‘Sex and the City’ and the best shoes in the world,” Mr. Fertitta said. “They want to see where Carrie Bradshaw sat on the stoop.”
For others, a trip to the city means plush hotels, world-class restaurants and museums, he said.
“Our job,” Mr. Fertitta said, “is to identify a market and say, ‘This is the part of New York that you’re going to love and you’ll want more of.’ ”