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(Janesville, WI) By Jim Leute, Gazette    

Television commercials touting a warmer business climate in Wisconsin are expected to complement local marketing initiatives designed to attract out-of-state businesses to Rock County.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation began airing the TV ads today in the Chicago; Rockford, Ill.; and Minneapolis-St. Paul markets.

In addition, the ads will air on “Fox & Friends” on FOX News, “Mad Money” with Jim Kramer on CNBC, “The O'Reilly Factor” on FOX News and “Anderson Cooper 360” on CNN.

The eight-week campaign features testimonials from some of the state's most respected businesses and highlights Wisconsin's overall business climate and its workforce.

Ryan Murray, the organization's deputy secretary, said the television campaign—estimated to reach 23 million viewers—is a first for Wisconsin.

When the organization was founded in 2012, it was charged with telling Wisconsin's business story and creating a marketing division to promote economic assets, he said.

In its first year, the business group spent $1.5 million on marketing, and 80 percent of that was spent on building the “In Wisconsin” brand within the state.

This year, the marketing budget is $5.75 million, about $2 million of which will be spent on TV commercials, targeted online advertising, ads in national business publications and marketing support for the group's other divisions.

Kelly Lietz, the group's vice president of marketing, said 75 percent of the advertising budget will be directed out of state, and it will leverage the “In Wisconsin” brand.

The current TV ad campaign will eat up $537,000 of that budget, Lietz said.

Lietz and Murray said the campaign would complement other, more targeted advertising to specific industry sectors.

“A CEO of a company in Chicago isn't go to say 'I saw that ad on TV and therefore I'm moving my company to Wisconsin,'” Murray said. “The ads will go to the totality of what a person knows about Wisconsin.”

Unlike many other states' campaigns, the ads are not negative, Murray said. They focus only on what's going on in Wisconsin.

“Our primary purpose is not poaching companies, in fact, we don't like to use that word,” Murray said. “If a company isn't interested in relocating to Wisconsin, it's possible that they're interested in giving some work to our suppliers in Wisconsin.

“If we go around attacking all these states where these companies live, it won't present the best image of Wisconsin, and it could hurt our suppliers here.”

Lietz said the ad platforms will all direct viewers to one of two calls to action: a visit to the agency's website or a call to a toll-free hotline. The system, he said, is set up to measure responses and track outcomes.

“A lot of people might ask how many jobs this is going to create,” Lietz said. “This marketing isn't designed to directly produce jobs.

“It's designed to fill the economic development pipeline.”

While metrics are in place to measure the results of the advertising expenditures, direct job creation is not one of them, Murray added.

“It's not about hitting home runs,” he said. “It's about getting at bats, and the more at bats we get, the more home runs we're going to hit.”



James Otterstein, Rock County's economic development manager, said the Rock County Development Alliance has been marketing the community outside of Wisconsin for some time but much more aggressively since July 2012, when it launched its Rock County Ready campaign.

The campaign emphasized the “ready” aspects of Rock County's economic development efforts. Ads promoting Rock County were wrapped around downtown Chicago buses, on billboards and in direct mailings.

Otterstein said the goal was similar to the one the state is now undertaking: Get the attention of business decision makers and tickle them with the opportunities in Rock County and Wisconsin.

“We continue to channel our resources to specific audiences,” Otterstein said. “We reach the Chicagoland market through direct mail, a consistent presence in targeted trade publications, email blasts and direct engagement opportunities wherever and whenever possible.”

Otterstein said the state's campaign is a welcome addition to the economic development toolbox, both at the state and local levels.

“The more exposure or splash you have often results in better penetration and recall,” he said. “Without question, the amount of time and resources we have spent continue to pay dividends on the relationship front.”

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