Ocean City Debating Ad Presence On Official Website

OCEAN CITY – The resort’s Tourism Commission discussed going against the grain of competing destinations this week by enhancing the town’s official website’s advertising opportunities.

OCocean.com is the official website of Ocean City, the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and the Tourism Department. According to the website, every year eight million people visit Ocean City, and in 2012 OCocean received over 6.5 million page views by 1.4 million unique visitors. CVB members and their business are posted on the website and receive exposure on OCocean.com for the price of $200 a year.

Tourism Commission member Todd Ferrante, who owns Park Place Jewelers, brought to the commission’s attention the opportunity to enhance OCocean by adding advertising for CVB members. Currently, CVB members are either listed under the Dining and Nightlife tab on the website, or on the Things to Do tab that then offers a scroll down menu with various categories, such as shopping.

“When people come to Ocean City, they come for the beach and they come for the Boardwalk but they also come for the shops and restaurants and other places so it is important that they are able to see that,” Ferrante said. “I think we can give a clearer picture of what we have to offer.”

According to Tourism Director Donna Abbott, in 2010 the town’s advertising agency, MGH, presented a proposal for advertising on OCocean but nothing ever came of it. At that time, MGH proposed each advertiser would receive an estimated minimum of 190,000 impressions for the first year. A banner advertisement would run about $1400 a year, and an advertorial would cost about $600 a year. After the first year, rates would increase to $2,900 and above. However, the website’s popularity has grown significantly since that time, and it is unknown what the market would bear today.

Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) Executive Director Susan Jones has researched the Outer Banks, Virginia Beach, Atlantic City, Wildwood, Ft. Lauderdale and the Keys, and she concluded none of them have advertising on their official tourism websites.

Jones agreed with adding more images, for example to the shopping section, to enhance interest but did not want to see OCocean’s homepage become cluttered with advertisements.

“It’s a big picture,” Ferrante said. “We are all part of Ocean City. We need to see more than just this … we need to have more than just a logo.”

Councilman Dennis Dare was also opposed to adding advertisement banners to OCocean’s homepage, stating the city spends $5 million to drive visitors to OCocean and wouldn’t want people to get on the site just to click through it with an advertisement.

Dare added it takes $200 for a business to be posted on OCocean, but there could be options to enhance a listing with advertisements by a tiered cost option.

“So if you see value in our website that is spending $5 million to draw people you could invest as much as you wanted to but at least for the $200 you have a basic mention in it,” he said.

Commission member Tom Perlozzo pointed out that digital magazines are becoming popular, combining both news and advertising, and being accessed via Internet, especially through smart phone apps. Perlozzo explained the magazine could be distributed by email or linked to OCocean.com to share advertisements.

Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel reminded the commission the chamber already executes a magazine digitally and by print that could easily be added to OCocean’s homepage as a link.

“I think we need to look outside the box,” Perlozzo said. “If you want to distribute a magazine … we want to access a third-party partner that has a huge database that can send out this magazine for us as a partner, so that we can grow.”

The potential to add advertisements to OCocean’s mobile app could be promising with the rapid increase of downloads every month, Abbott said. Last month the app had 4,000 downloads to iPhones alone, bringing the total number of iPhone downloads over 108,000. There were 1,900 Droid downloads, bringing the total number over 43,000.

“I would like to see more retail and more restaurants belong, and I think the value to the site is in the mobile apps for the people that are already here and are trying to figure out where they want to shop or where they want to eat,” she said.

The Tourism Commission came to a consensus to have Abbott work with MGH on CVB membership postings on OCocean and the potential to delve deeper into advertising with tiered cost options as well as exploring the option of partnering with a digital magazine database to expand advertisement opportunities, versus using local databases and resources, such as the chamber’s digital version of the Vacation Guide or the OCHMRA’s Inside Ocean City digital listing of restaurants, shopping and services.

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