COMMENTS TO THE BENSON CITY COUNCIL May 14, 2012

As you all know, Iím Paul Lotsof and Iím the manager of CAVE 97-7 FM which is Bensonís radio station. The CAVE Eyesore is located at 156 West Fifth Street.

Over the past few months, Councilmen Sacco and Brooks have mentioned the City of Bensonís advertising and I think that at budget time it would be appropriate to take a look at the money the city spends on advertising. With that in mind, Iíll ask a rhetorical question: How much money would you guess the City of Benson has spent on advertising over the past twelve months? To find out the answer to that question I took Mr. Coxís bi-monthly reports for council meetings held between April 15 of last year and April 15 of this year. I added up all the expenditures that I knew to be for advertising and came up with the figure of $38,031.75

Here Iíd like to point out that the actual dollar figure on advertising could be considerably more than $38,000 because Iím not including the cost of direct mailings or the possibility that some specialty items such as logos or hats might contain advertising. Moreover, Mr. Cox often uses abbreviations that arenít commonly recognized. For example, the city buys a lot of FSA from a company called TASC. Iím guessing thatís not advertising. Be that as it may, it is my belief that the Benson City Government is by far the biggest spender of advertising dollars in this area and no commercial business comes close.

Obvious questions: Who are the lucky recipients of all this money and is that money being spent with any degree of efficiency or effectiveness?

Bensonís advertising can be divided into three categories: The first is legal advertising along with advertising designed to make the public aware of services that the city provides plus some public relations. Second comes tourism advertising and third is advertising for the golf course.

Who gets the cityís advertising dollars? By far, the biggest single recipient is the local newspaper which received just over $11,000 and that doesnít include payments to other Wick publications. It is important to understand that due to an antiquated state law that dates back to 1928, the city is required to place certain types of advertising in a newspaper that is published and printed in the community. Since no newspaper is printed in Benson you might be able to use a different newspaper with lower rates but politically that wouldnít fly so youíre stuck with the News-Sun and its rates which are anything but a bargain when you consider that this newspaper has one of the tiniest circulations of any paper in the state. You should realize that the city spends vastly more with the News-Sun than what the law requires. You also need to understand that nowadays a lot of the paperís readers use its web site rather than paying the fifty cents plus tax for the print version. The cityís advertising rarely appears in the paperís internet version and when it does appear it is hard to find. Thus, your advertising misses a large percentage of the newspaperís readership. And you wonder why it is that when you advertise for vacancies on boards and commissions you hardly get any response. To a person who understands advertising, thereís nothing to wonder about. Youíre paying top dollar for very little. An obvious question is why is it that all advertising designed to reach the local residents must be placed in this newspaper? In some cases you pay so much to the newspaper that it would be cheaper and far more effective to send the advertisements by mail to every household in Benson.

Okay, what sort of bargains are we getting on our tourism advertising? Tourismís total is $18,393. The number one recipient of tourism advertising dollars is a company near San Diego called Certified Folder Display which has received an incredible $6,300 over the past year. Then comes a magazine called RV Journal which got $4,800 followed by Go Travel Sites with $1895.. Who made the decision to spend $6,300 on Certified Folder Display and what evidence is there that the city is getting $6,300 worth of additional business as a result of that expenditure? Ditto the $4,800 that weíre handing to RV Journal and other thousands going to various obscure media companies.

Lastly, comes the advertising for the golf course, totaling $7,266.. Most of the advertising dollars spent for the golf course go to a Tucson advertising agency called Ackerley. Ackerley got $4,800 but hardly anyone knows what Ackerley does with all that money. Of the two dozen advertising agencies in Tucson how was Ackerley selected and where does that $4,800 go? Why is handing $4,800 to an advertising agency different from giving a lump sum to the Chamber of Commerce to do with in any way they see fit? I think that the public deserves some accountability including some evidence that the money given to Ackerley is bringing at least $4,800 in golfing dollars into Benson.

For 29 years Benson has had a very popular radio station. Our 6,000 watt signal reaches listeners in Sierra Vista, Hereford, Tombstone and we even get calls from Green Valley. We reach traffic on the Interstate, Highways 80 and 90 and we have a very popular morning program hosted by Benson native Joaquin Haro. A radio ratings company estimates that we reach up to 10,000 people in a week, several times the circulation of the News-Sun and weíre not limited to one exposure per week. Whatís the radio stationís share of the $38,000 ? The answer is a big goose egg. Why? Most of our commercials cost $2.50 each. Is that too much? Also consider the fact that our local employees are the number one cost of operating a radio station. That means that a significant percentage of money spent at CAVE-FM would be re-spent in Benson, quite a contrast from all the money you spend out of town.

In conclusion Iíd like to point out that advertising is a very competitive business. Why not take advantage of all the competition? What is the point of thwarting the free enterprise system by having no bidding process? Thereís a steep price to be paid when certain vendors are arbitrarily selected and their competitors are shut out. The City Council is the guardian of the public trust and I think you could do a lot better by instituting polices that lead to competition, efficiency and results from your ad dollars. Thatís not what you have in place now. Thank you for your consideration.

 

Some other significant ripoffs:

$375 to an educational FM station in Tucson to plug the bluegrass festival. The station canít legally broadcast commercials.

$1,996.25 to the News-Sun to promote the restaurant at the golf course. (Theyíd have to sell a lot of additional meals for that to pay off.)

$1,162.35 to the News-Sun to tell the public whatís in the water supply besides water.

$886.33 to the News-Sun to advise the public about medical marijuana.

$1,405 to advertise in Wick Newspapers travel guides.

$92.26 to the News-Sun for ads in a sports calendars. Good for the newspaper but how do the students benefit?

$343.38 to the News-Sun to be included in a business directory.

The city canít seem to say no to the newspaperís sales person. Whatever they ask for they get. The taxpayers of Benson pay.



 
PAUL