OCEAN CITY — MGH Advertising President Andy Malis sat quietly and almost stoically in the second row of the City Council chambers at City Hall on Tuesday awaiting the final decision on whether the town would continue to keep his company on its payroll.
At the end of the day, despite having to endure a few backhanded slaps at his portfolio and his past performances for the town, Malis made the drive back across the Bay Bridge a happy man as the council approved the Tourism Commission’s recommendation to keep MGH as the town’s advertising agency for one year in a split 4-3 vote.
“I’m extremely happy that we won, and I’m relieved that the process is finally over,” said Malis. “Ocean City is one of the only accounts that I work on personally, so I would have admittedly been very sad if we lost this account.”
Tuesday’s final conversation about the ad agency process got heated at times, with Council members Joe Hall and Margaret Pillas blatantly saying that they thought that MGH wasn’t doing the job for the town of Ocean City, but despite their loud outcries to go against the Tourism Commission’s recommendation, the council voted 4-3, with Hall, Pillas, and Jim Hall in opposition, to hire MGH for the sum of $275,496 for the next year.
“In this business, there are times when people see the need for change after seven years, and I think the town had every right to go through the process, but I don’t understand how some of the people thought that we weren’t doing a good job,” said Malis. “If you look at the numbers this year, the town of Ocean City won compared to all its competitors, and if we hadn’t been so successful this year, I wouldn’t have made the pitch.”
As per Smith Travel Research statistics, the town of Ocean City fared better in every major category than its competitors and the national average. Ocean City’s average daily rate (ADR) dropped only 1.45 percent when ADR statistics showed a national decline of almost 10 percent, and declines in the Jersey Shore (8.6 percent), Myrtle Beach (11.3 percent), and Virginia Beach (6.5 percent).
Even more striking was the statistics in the Revenue Per Available Room category (RevPAR), which showed Ocean City’s 7.3-percent decline far better than the national average (18.5 percent) and the top three competitors who all showed double digit loses in the category, including a 20.8 percent loss at the Jersey Shore.
Simply put, in a bad economy that incurred huge losses in the travel and tourism industry, not only the eastern seaboard, but also nationwide (16-percent decline nationwide), Ocean City’s slight 5-percent decline in both revenue and occupancy was a much better result than Ocean City’s three top competitors who all recorded double digit losses in those categories.
Still, there were those who were not swayed by the national statistics, or the fact that MGH ranked first in the town’s review in both ability and price.
“Doing less worse than our competition is not good enough for me,” said Joe Hall. “I liked the agencies who said that they were going to grow our business by 20 percent and showed me that they could do it.”
Malis said that now that the agency can look ahead to next season, it would continue to develop their well-received and popular Rodney the Lifeguard character as the town’s face of tourism.
“There’s strategy behind Rodney and all that we used him for to get people excited about coming to Ocean City, he’s not just a cute idea that we came up with, he was extremely effective this year,” said Malis. “We’ve got some great ideas for next season, and we are going to continue to grow of the very positive campaign we ran this year. Every year, we have spent pretty much the same on media buys, but we had a huge increase in traffic on the website this year. As the economy picks up, Ocean City is going to see a return on what we’ve done.”