Thursday, December 2, 2010

Comparing Apples and Oranges on 'Pure Michigan'

Would anyone compare the purchasing power of General Motors to that of a local diner or the local gas station?

Of course not. They're not the same. Yet that's what the Livingston Press and Argus did in its story on an imagined "debate" over the merits of the Pure Michigan ad campaign.

The story features no real debate at all in terms of the campaign. How could it? The program is a winner for the state, returning $2.33 in sales tax revenue for each $1 spent in advertising Michigan as a tourism attraction nationwide. The only debate is in the reporter's mind, who tries to create controversy by encouraging readers to be "outraged" over non-existent state advertising for General Motors products after failing to find anyone to make that statement for him.

At its heart, the story shows a basic inability or refusal to understand the nature of the tourism industry. Michigan's tourism industry is not made up of two or three huge companies fully capable of financing national advertising. It's made up of thousands of small enterprises that benefit whenever people from outside the local community come and spend money -- local restaurants, gas stations, campgrounds, motels, golf courses, gift shops, local museums, and so on. Individually, they simply cannot afford to advertise nationally the way General Motors and Ford can. Yet they all pay taxes to the state of Michigan in one way or another and provide jobs. The state benefits from their existence. It seems entirely reasonable that the state would help them thrive by doing something they cannot possibly do on their own -- advertising on their behalf nationally. Especially when it doesn't cost the state in the long run to do this.

The comparison to the beef industry check-off program also is misguided. That's a national program -- cattle raisers all over the nation contribute to that, not just those from one state. And of course, the beef check-off program is a government program, overseen by the USDA, even though the money comes from $1 a head from the producers. You can read about it here. Another off-the-mark comparison.

Instead of manufacturing outrage over non-existent state advertising for GM, the newspaper out to be reflecting disgust for the job-killing Republican State Senate.

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