Pine Knoll Shores — The Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority Board of Directors has released $400,000 to be used for an ongoing television advertising campaign ahead of the summer tourism season.

The TDA board held its first meeting of the new year Tuesday at the Hampton Inn in Pine Knoll Shores. The board previously approved in November a budget amendment moving $400,000 from a contingency fund to marketing, but the board’s action this month formally released the funds for use.

TDA Executive Director Jim Browder said the money will go toward television advertisements promoting the Crystal Coast as a vacation destination. The upcoming round of ads will air mid-March through the end of April and will target North Carolina markets in particular, including the Raleigh and Charlotte metro areas. Mr. Browder said it is not necessarily a new ad campaign, but rather it extends an effort that has already proven successful.

“Basically the $400,000 will be for continuing broadcast that we have done,” he said Tuesday. “It’s been a very good program, it’s driven a lot of traffic, so we decided to continue it, almost like a mirror of what we’ve done before, and just extend it a little bit further.”

After Hurricane Florence in 2018, the TDA placed most of its money usually reserved for promotion and marketing in a contingency fund under the assumption tourism would take a hit after the major storm. Mr. Browder said while the TDA continued to run advertisements after the hurricane, it directed its advertising partner, The Tombras Group, to suspend work on any new creative materials, and the TDA also drastically reduced its in-house expenses.

However, the tourism industry performed better than expected after Florence, so the TDA board is gradually moving the money out of contingency back into to its advertising funds. The $400,000 released this month represents the third wave of money moved from contingency, and Mr. Browder said there is still a substantial amount waiting to be released.

“We still have more contingency money, we just have to come up with a dollar amount that’s comfortable for everybody,” he said.

The TDA will take a brief break in its broadcast ads for the weeks leading up to the North Carolina presidential primaries Tuesday, March 3, as TV spots go for a premium price during that time. After that, the team will hit the ground running leading up to the summer tourism season.

“TV ads get expensive around elections,” TDA Board Chairman Trace Cooper said.

The television ads for the upcoming round of advertising will be a mix of old material and a new campaign that highlights the location of the Crystal Coast. The new campaign, called “Search,” has already begun to appear in print, according to Mr. Browder.

The campaigns are part of an effort to increase the public’s awareness of where the Crystal Coast is located, which the TDA hopes will drive more visits to the area. Last year, the TDA partially rebranded itself by unveiling an updated logo and the new tagline, “North Carolina’s southern Outer Banks.”

The TDA’s public relations partner, the Zimmerman Agency, is also taking steps to help improve location awareness of the Crystal Coast. Desta Gourley with Zimmerman said she will be attending trade shows and other events with an interactive “Pin the Map” initiative to help improve awareness.

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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