The tourism agency dishes out close to $200,000 a year to festivals, chambers of commerce and niche marketing campaigns in the county. It’s a standing, written policy that those ads give credit give for the funding where credit is due.
But organizations in Maggie Valley have instead been putting the contact information for the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce on ads rather than the countywide tourism agency. While it didn’t follow the letter of the guidelines, it was tacitly allowed.
“That has been the verbal agreement. It is not written into the guidelines,” said Lynn Collins, executive director of the TDA.
The topic came up again at a recent TDA board meeting after Canton Town Manager and TDA board member Al Matthews noticed that in some advertising, the tourism agency’s contribution was not even noted.
“If the TDA is paying half or more, it should be on there,” Matthews said.
Namely, the ad should say “paid for by” or “paid in part by” the Haywood County TDA, he argued.
“If the TDA is sponsoring somewhere, it needs to be acknowledged,” Matthews said.
The board voted to reaffirm current rules that are technically already on the books that would make it mandatory for advertising to state that it was funded fully or partially by the TDA. The line would give the tourism agency the recognition it desires without cluttering advertisements with too much information.
Historically, the TDA required people to include the agency’s logo, phone number and website in any marketing that it contributed to, but the information sometimes got lost amid details about the business or event and logos for other organizations such as a chamber of commerce.
“If you are going with a sixth of a page ad, that logo gets so illegible that it is a waste of space,” Collins said.
But, some TDA board members contended that the tourism agency cannot dole out funding with nothing in return. The board batted around requiring the TDA’s logo, but once again, some thought that the addition would overload ads with too much information, making it less effective.
“I think adding another logo would be really confusing for the consumer,” said Audrey Hagar, director of the Maggie Valley fairgrounds.
Hagar said advertising for events already includes the fairgrounds’ logo and information about the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“To ask to add anymore would be a hardship,” she said.
Teresa Smith, executive director of Maggie Valley’s Chamber of Commerce, agreed that too many details would overwhelm people, but simply adding “paid for by” would not.
“You’ve got one logo, you’ve got one website and you’ve got who it’s paid by,” Smith said. “You’ve got all of it without gumming it up.”
In the past, the TDA punished business owners who neglected to list it as a sponsor in its marketing and promotion efforts. In 2009, the tourism agency promised Skipper Russell, owner of Corn Maize in Canton, $3,000 to advertising the corn maze.
Russell spent $8,000 on advertisements but forgot to mention the TDA’s contribution in any of them. Because of that, the authority refused to give him the $3,000 it had agreed to.