Sandy Sansing, chairman of the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, discussed during a recent meeting an “extravagant” new television ad the chamber purchased for $270,857.

By Steve Miller
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

What’s going on with the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce?

Last week, we wrote about the situation in which the chamber is evading the state’s open meetings laws.

Now there’s a $270,000 broadcast spot airing in several southern markets that locals are questioning for its cost, according to a story in the Pensacola News-Journal.

From the story:

How much does it cost to promote Pensacola?

Try $270,857 for 30 seconds.

That’s how much a Tennessee advertising firm charged the Greater Pensacola Chamber to produce a 30-second TV ad that is currently airing in several cities across the Southeast United States and is set to run in Washington, D.C., in the fall.

The actual cost to produce the ad was $258,094. But a $12,763 charge for a rain delay when the weather turned bad pushed the amount up.

The cost for the ad shot in Pensacola included $10,700 in travel costs alone and another $21,300 for “creative direction.”

The door is open to even more controversy, according to the story:

The $288,000 for producing the commercial has not yet been paid to BOHAN, (chamber president Jim) Hizer said. However, barring an error or other circumstance that has not yet come to light, the chamber is contractually obligated to make payment.

But Escambia County officials, who finance Visit Pensacola, the chamber’s tourism arm, through reimbursements could deny the expense.

Amy Lovoy, the county’s budget and finance chief, said the county could deny the payment for two reasons:

  • If the payment falls outside the scope of the county’s contract with the chamber, which in this case it would not.
  • If the expense far exceeds the normal payout for a cost of this kind.

Lovoy said she and other county staff will review the invoice when it’s submitted, and if they find the cost too large, it will be submitted to the Escambia County Commission for a final determination.

Who would pay then? Or would it end up in costly litigation?

Part of the grief being given is that the chamber last year switched agencies from locally based EW Bullock to Nashville, Tenn., firm BOHAN Advertising.

A meeting in which various parties came in to discuss the spot was held June 12, which this piece details.

Brian Gilpatrick, BOHAN’s senior vice president of consumer insights and planning, defended the ad at the meeting, the story reports:

BOHAN’s Gilpatrick said the commercial’s price tag included more than the 30-second commercial.

He said pieces of the ad and a photo shoot that was completed during filming can be repurposed for print and online ads, email marketing and social media promotion.

“This is not a television spot,” he said. “This is a marketing campaign.”

There was no mention of any scheduled ad buy or the cost or repurposing the broadcast spot, which also costs money, but simply the option to do so.  And if there is a marketing campaign, surely there would be some plan of media buys, which are part of any such endeavor. Where is that?

The move to a non-local agency also rankled a few Pensacola locals, some of whom launched a Facebook page as part of an effort to take on the chamber. A local blogger is also checking in regarding the chamber. An online city magazine even weighed in on the extravagance of the ad.

In addition, here’s a brief video of chamber Chairman Sandy Sansing discussing the ad, in which he notes that the ad cost is extravagant:

These are some tough times for the chamber, which receives public funding that includes $232,000 from the City of Pensacola and $550,000 from Escambia County.

The spot in question is currently running in Baton Rouge, La., New Orleans, Nashville, Tenn., Birmingham, Ala., and Montgomery, Ala.