State jobs agency debuts TV-ad campaign to boost state's business profile, lure new companies

Monday, Jan 06, 2014
Starting Monday, Wisconsin’s lead agency for economic development is launching its first television campaign aimed at luring businesses to the state.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will use close to 10 percent of its $5.75 million annual marketing budget — itself more than triple last year’s $1.5 million budget — for the two ads, which feature brief testimonials from business executives touting the state’s “pro-business climate” and “strong workforce.”
“We can positively advertise Wisconsin without having to tear down anyone else,” WEDC deputy secretary Ryan Murray said in an interview, contrasting Wisconsin’s campaign with the more biting promotions of states such as Indiana, which put up billboards reading, “Illinnoyed by Higher Taxes?” or the approach of Texas, which urges out-of-state businesses it wants to lure to “Get Out While There’s Still Time.”
Wisconsin’s more genteel approach features talking heads from four of the state’s most successful business enterprises, superimposed over a quick-moving series of characteristic exteriors, such as the Milwaukee Art Museum, the state Capitol and Grainger Hall, the School of Business building at UW-Madison.

Featured leaders include Christopher Lofgren, CEO of Green Bay-based trucking giant Schneider National, and Louise Hemstead of Organic Valley, a cooperative of organic farmers in La Farge.

The 30-second spots will run for eight weeks in three television markets: Chicago; Rockford, Ill.; and the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. They will air on cable news channels CNN, CNBC and Fox News.

The ads will air during programs that target business leaders, including CNBC’s “Mad Money,” “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox and CNN shows hosted by Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett and Wolf Blitzer, at a total cost for production and airtime of $537,000, according to Kelly Lietz, WEDC’s vice president of marketing.

Lietz noted the campaign was a continuation of WEDC’s development in 2012 of the “In Wisconsin” brand now printed on all of its advertising and other communications. But one big difference is that this year’s campaign will be focused 75 percent outside the state, compared with 80 percent in-state last year.

“The next step is to deliver that pro-business message to a national and global audience,” said Lietz, who has been helping the agency try to rebound from a series of missteps after its founding in July 2011, including failure to track millions in loans, lack of internal controls and awards to ineligible applicants.

In response to criticism that luring border businesses from other states may amount to poaching that undermines the region’s business climate — and, perhaps, escalates the competition between states to award companies increasing amounts of taxpayer-funded grants and credits — Murray said the campaign was focused more on encouraging businesses to expand here rather than to move entirely.

Murray also said Wisconsin’s workforce, while featuring a below-average percentage of college graduates, has a strong work ethic and experience.

WEDC leaders expect the new ad campaign, which also includes videos of the ads on 400 websites, to generate about 23 million views, some of which they hope will translate into site visits and calls to the agency’s toll-free phone number, 855-INWIBIZ.

Beyond the TV ads, WEDC’s 2013-2014 marketing budget includes online advertising, ads in national business publications and marketing support for agency divisions that serve in-state businesses.