Although most people did not want to go on record with their comments, let it be known some folks in tourism around here were irked over the fact two Ocean City applications will soon be available for iPhone users. It was not so much the number of “apps” but the process that led to them that was questioned.
All the anxiety comes from the fact the town’s ad agency is planning to launch an Ocean City “app” in the near future. Those plans had been in the works privately and were discussed publicly earlier this year. However, it was not widely known that a local company, D3 Corp, had been planning its own Ocean City “app” and that it would coincidentally or not resemble what the ad firm was working on.
The issue here is not that there will be more than one “app” for Ocean City. It was only a matter of time and this is a free enterprise system. The problem some had was that D3Corp President John Gehrig is also the president of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce and was subsequently involved and privy to the town ad agency’s plans for the upcoming campaign and may or may not have gleaned a few concepts and ideas for his own “app”.
In the interest of full disclosure, this newspaper’s website was created and maintained by D3 Corp, but that does not mean we cannot weigh in on this matter.
The feeling here is too much fuss is being made out of this. When Gehrig was reached this week, he said he was “shocked” at the concerns being raised and insulted that anyone would think he would use his volunteer capacity as chamber president inappropriately. He said his company has been planning an iPhone application for Ocean City for months and documentation proves it was well before MGH, the town’s ad firm, publicly announced plans to create an Ocean City application. Gehrig said this week he was insulted at the mere implication that he stole ideas from the town agency’s “app”, saying he pays talented employees to create these kinds of applications and does not need to copy other concepts.
The fact of the matter here is it doesn’t matter who created an “app” and who did it first. It’s not a big deal, but the fact it rankled some city officials, who were unwilling to comment publicly, is interesting. It did not appear to bother Mayor Rick Meehan, who said this week he remembers sitting with Gehrig during last fall’s ad agency review process when a phone application was pitched by competing firms. “We both commented on what a good idea it was,” Meehan said. When asked about the multiple applications, the mayor adopted the approach “the more the better”.
No matter how much technology and Internet gurus preach about the wonders of the wireless and high-tech world, the fact of the matter here is a phone application is not going to make a huge difference in tourism. It’s just another aspect of a well-rounded campaign looking to lure and entice visitors to Ocean City. It’s a sound idea and an example of boosting the campaign to another level, but it’s not going to have a huge impact, one way or the other.
Marketing is still about getting creative and smart messages out to potential visitors through the typical and traditional mediums and providing quality service and clean, safe and fun attractions to those who come here. Blending new technologies with trusted tools used for decades to market these concepts is wise.
Who created a phone “app” first and what it’s going to look like will not matter in the long run. Sooner or later, all travel sites will offer destination applications, and that can only help Ocean City.