MOREHEAD CITY — The Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority is hiring a familiar advertising agency to take over the authority’s ad campaigns and public relations starting at the new year.

The TDA Board of Directors met via Zoom Dec. 15 to finalize the decision to hire Tallahassee, Fla.-based firm The Zimmerman Agency. Zimmerman currently serves as the TDA’s public relations partner, while the Knoxville, Tenn.-based agency Tombras Group handles the authority’s advertisement campaigns.

With the board’s unanimous decision to approve the new contract, Zimmerman will take over both marketing functions beginning Friday, Jan. 1. There will be a few months’ transition period as Tombras passes on its duties to the new agency. Tombras has been with the TDA for six years, and Zimmerman was the authority’s advertising agency before that.

TDA Executive Director Jim Browder told the News-Times the search for a new firm began earlier this year with 20 agencies submitting proposals. The TDA’s marketing committee narrowed that down to 10, which were presented to the full board of directors, and the pool was furthered narrowed down to four finalists.

The remaining four ad agencies, which included the Tombras Group, presented to the full TDA board, and members agreed Zimmerman was the best option. TDA Board Chairperson Trace Cooper said everybody was impressed by Zimmerman’s presentation.

“A clear winner emerged from the presentations,” he said. “…I’m excited, I think it’s going to be a good relationship going forward.”

As for the cost, Mr. Browder said pricing varies some between the two agencies, but overall the costs were similar. The board went over a breakdown of cost differences and agreed Zimmerman’s prices seemed fair.

The retainer for Zimmerman, which includes services like creative and content development, digital strategy, market research and other activities, costs $408,000. The Tombras Group costs $218,500, but it does not include digital advertising services and social media strategy. Adding those services brings the cost for Tombras up to $398,500.

“The addition of SimpleView to build and manage our website, inclusive of SEO, complicated the comparison just a little,” Mr. Browder noted. “All in all, the pricing is very favorable to the TDA, we were pleased with the results.”

With other related expenses, such as paid campaigns, the TDA has an annual budget of around $1.8 million for advertising.

“It does vary once in a while if additional funds are received, we add to the advertising budget, but that does not happen too often,” Mr. Browder added. “Last year had a surplus because of (Hurricane) Florence, we spent an additional $800k on advertising.”

In other business, the TDA board also voted to move forward with seeking requests for proposals, or RFPs, for audit services. Mr. Browder said the authority’s current auditor has been with the TDA for five years, and it is good practice to occasionally bring on “new eyes,” similar to the recent search for a new ad agency. Mr. Browder said he’s worked with Carteret County Finance Director Dee Meshaw to put together an RFP, and the board will select the new auditor in early 2021.

The TDA also recently soft launched its new website, which was redesigned with the company SimpleView. The website can be found at the same domain,, but it has a fresh design with several new features. The TDA plans to officially announce the launch next month as a few final tweaks are made.


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

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