OCEAN CITY – Two promotions, a free gas giveaway and a golf co-op, were created to endorse Ocean City as a destination but both have now reached a dead end less than a month after being approved.
Councilman Brent Ashley requested this week to withdrawal his two-part motion, which was set to activate a free gas giveaway and golf co-op marketing plan.
“My understanding is I made one motion for two promotions that was eventually turned down so that killed both of my wishes,” he said.
Almost a month ago, Ashley proposed a free gas giveaway that would allocate $1 million from the town’s advertising budget to give away gas to the town’s visitors as an incentive to vacation in Ocean City despite the raising gas prices. His original proposal was met with a large amount of hesitation from the City Council as well as town officials. He returned later to propose a less significant amount, $100,000, to be allocated toward the promotion which seemed to relieve a majority of the hesitation.
On May 31, the council approved the gas promotion in a vote 4-3 but the motion was set in form of a compromise. Ashley set the motion to move forward with the free gas giveaway as well as the golf co-op marketing plan, which had been brought to the council on four occasions previously but had not been passed.
The objective of the co-op golf marketing plan was to intensify the marketing of Ocean City as a desirable golf destination by partnering with Ocean City golf packagers to increase related revenue to the town and increase rounds booked at the town-owned golf course Eagles Landing. The marketing dollars that the eligible packagers match will double the investment made by the town resulting in extended reach, frequency and increased bookings. The proposal called for directing $60,000 towards the golf co-op but out of the already allocated golf advertising budget.
Last week, an overturned majority of the council decided to eliminate the free gas giveaway promotion in a 4-3 vote during closed session.
At that time, Council President Jim Hall explained the concept the town’s advertising agency, MGH, had created for the gas giveaway was exciting but the council’s discussion revealed hotels and motels in town were already giving gas away and some council members felt it would be better to promote other businesses in town to do the same.
Upon the elimination of the free gas giveaway, Ashley felt it was only fair to kill the golf co-op as well. He set it into motion at Monday’s meeting and the council voted 4-3, with Councilman Doug Cymek, Council Secretary Lloyd Martin and Councilwoman Mary Knight, in opposition.
Once the vote was complete, Councilman Joe Hall inquired that since the promotion is now dead would it be appropriate to share MGH’s concept to deliver the free gas giveaway promotion with the public.
“It seems to me to protect their [MGH] proprietary interest of their work product, that to release that now would give some other agency the benefit of their work that you’re now not even going to use,” City Solicitor Guy Ayres said.
City Manager Dennis Dare pointed out that the work product can still be applied to future promotions not specifically the gas promotion.
“It was my understanding it [promotion concept] was to do away with the gas but the work product could still be used … for any number of potential promotional concepts in the advertising of the town,” Ayres said. “Why would you even want to reveal that at this point?”
Mayor Rick Meehan said the issue regarding the gas promotion and the golf co-op has been contentious and has gathered a difference of opinions.
“We all need to move together to at least protect what has been presented to us because I think it may be something we can use and probably will use in the future,” he said.
At this point, Councilwoman Margaret Pillas questioned the man power behind the concept conceived over the gas promotion. She was under the impression that the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) formed within the last year was to participate along with MGH and the town’s tourism director, Deb Turk, in creating the promotion.
“Now I have learned that TAB wasn’t even involved in putting this presentation together with MGH and I am really upset about that because there is a vote to have TAB involved here and they were not in the room with us,” she said. “I would have liked them to be involved in this presentation and I want to know why they were not.”
Meehan disagreed with Pillas in that TAB was never included in the discussion and that the concept was to come from MGH and Turk.
“Every time we have done something with MGH or anything with tourism from the day TAB was formed we have been saying TAB should be involved the whole time,” Pillas said.