Nevada's new ads target California firms' frustration

It's no accident that the beat-up California business owners who starred in the ads from Nevada economic development agencies last year disappeared from this year's campaign.

California businesses aren't feeling quite as beat up as they were a year ago.

But even though California business owners believe the Golden State is becoming more business-friendly, they're running out of patience with the slow pace of change.

And that's the key emotion targeted by this year's advertising campaign from a coalition of economic development agencies across Nevada.

In the campaign developed by Reno's KPS|3, the California bear disappears from the state flag, only to be found happily doing business in Nevada. Next to disappear will be the California Happy Cows.

"The creative platform has been that it's so frustrating to do business in California that even the California bear is leaving the state," says Stephanie Kruse, president of the marketing agency.

That's a significant difference from a year ago, Kruse says, when business owners voiced a sense of desperation when they called economic development agencies in Nevada. That campaign carried the tagline "Walking Wounded."

The agency shapes the message of the campaign after gathering information from the folks who field calls at the Nevada Commission on Economic Development, Northern Nevada Development Authority and the like.

While economic development agencies track the number of companies moving here from California, the primary audience for the advertising campaign is the reporters who write and broadcast stories about the advertising campaign.

"The media coverage is important," says Chuck Alvey, the president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, one of the agencies that sponsors the campaign.

The campaign's budget of $650,000 doesn't go far in California's major metropolitan media markets.

But within three days after the campaign broke, EDAWN staffers found articles about the campaign in about 200 publications such as the Sacramento Bee and Washington Post.

"Reporters are getting it," says Alvey.

That's a lesson the Nevada officials learned three years ago, when their advertising campaign broke during the heated campaign to recall former Gov. Gray Davis.

"It got a lot of PR. It taught us that the campaign needed to be the story," Kruse says.

To keep reporters' attention after heavy media coverage during the first two years of the campaign, KPS|3 developed tactics that included wrapping a San Diego ferry boat with Nevada's message. That's the first time the wrapping technology that's common on city buses has been used on a ferry in the California city.

In the past year, Alvey says, 15 companies moved to northern Nevada from California, bringing with them a first-year economic impact of $85 million.

No one can tie those companies' decisions to the advertising campaign or drumbeat of news coverage, but Alvey says Nevada officials believe it's important to keep the ads in front of California business owners.

"You never know," he says, "when something is going to click."

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