Wednesday, October 7, 2020

City, business association fund digital ads for downtown; association renews push for downtown restrooms

The Midway Business Association agreed Wednesday to help fund a digital marketing campaign that the city plans to help downtown businesses.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift allocated $2,000 for the campaign out of the city's contingency fund late last month, and the MBA voted to contribute $1,000.

The money will go to Think Tank Media, which is based in Gadsden, Ala., but has a local agent, Sean McDonald, who lives on Highview Drive.

McDonald met with the MBA at its regular meeting Wednesday morning and explained the company's approach. It places short commercials in video streaming services (not Hulu or Netflix, which sell their own ads) through geographic and demographic targeting.

Using some of Vandegrift's geographic suggestions, household-income data and evidence of interests in things that Midway has to offer, McDonald said, he developed a list of ZIP+4 codes with 8,971 homes in Louisville and Lexington.

"The targeting can get very specific, unlike common Facebook advertising that simply draws a circle around an area," Vandegrift told the City Council and the Midway Messenger in an email Sept. 29. "We can draw lines that look more like gerrymandered congressional districts, all based on data that indicates the consumers' proclivity to visit a place like Midway."

Since the pandemic began, Vandegrift has voiced concern about the future of local businesses, and the City Council has funded two forms of relief: "Midway Bucks" sent to each household, which could be spent only in Midway, and direct grants to businesses, from federal relief funds. 

"While our larger industries are faring well and new ones continue to relocate here, I’m very concerned, as I’m sure are you, about the fortunes of our shops and restaurants, especially as cooler weather begins to approach," wrote Vandegrift, a former restaurateur. "I’m afraid restaurants may be hit especially hard as they lose their patios."

The mayor said the business environment is unprecedented environment, "and I believe we have to pull out all the stops to help keep them going. We will undoubtedly roll out other ideas as winter approaches about how to help them through, and we’re all going to have to work together to encourage anyone who can to support our local merchants however they can.

"In normal times, I might not even support such an effort, let alone propose it; out of roughly $800,000 annually in occupational tax revenue we receive, about $50,000 comes from our restaurants, $3,000 from our shops. But they offer something more vital that mere dollars and cents, and we wouldn’t be the same without them. They work hard, employ people, and are ambassadors for our city."

Vandegrift said the city will be able to gauge the effectiveness of the campaign because "Think Tank Media uses a very advanced metric to track return on investment, and has a higher standard than normal of what a true consumer engagement is."

McDonald told the MBA that at least half of an image must be viewed to count as an engagement, and his company's proprietary software can track how many targeted customers actually came to Midway.

Vandegrift's email concluded, "If this initial advertising push works as well as I believe it can, we can talk more about potential future efforts with the business association throughout the pandemic."

Restrooms: The MBA renewed action on one of its continuing desires, public restrooms downtown, after the idea got a higher profile Monday night in the City Council candidates' forum sponsored by the Midway Woman's Club and the Midway Messenger. The question was proposed via Facebook by Sam Fisher of Fisher Antiques.

Five of the eight participating candidates said they were open to the idea, and one, Steve Simoff, endorsed it wholeheartedly, while Mary Raglin and Council Member Logan Nance said they did not favor it. Council Member Stacy Thurman said she wanted to do more research, and said the project should be a collaboration between the MBA and the city.

MBA President Cortney Neikirk said she would contact Thurman to see if she would join an effort to gather information, look for a location and make a plan for maintenance of the restrooms. "We can't just go to the city and say, 'Give us bathrooms'," she said. But with a comprehensive plan, "They're not gonna turn us down."

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