Friday, February 29, 2008

Update: Hillsborough County CAC - February 29, 2008

Our first speakers were the county’s Community Liaisons; Tony Morejon (Hispanic Liaison), Joyce Russell (African American Liaison), Kimi Springsteen (Asian American Liaison), Sandra Sroka (ADA Liaison). Each of them provided very informative updates on what they do to help the citizens of Hillsborough County.

Our second speaker was Tammy Peralta, Station Manager for Hillsborough Television who spoke about the Value Initiative PSA’s that the county is rolling utilizing the $150 thousand advertising credit provided from Bright House Networks after moving HTV to channel 622.

Eric Johnson, Manager, Office of Management and Budget then provided a budget update.
Hillsborough County Citizens Advisory CommitteeAppointed by Commissioner Brian Blair

Hillsborough County Citizens Advisory Committee
Appointed by Commissioner Brian Blair

Monday, February 25, 2008

Involvement increases income options

The following entry is a quote of my comment on a recent Creative Tampa Bay column, The Sunshine Factor...

As the Chairman of National Ad 2 with 25+ young professional chapters around the country I can tell from first hand experience that it is not simply sunshine that depresses local salaries.

More importantly it is the lack of involvement by individuals in community and industry groups and associations. By being active one learns more about the market they live in and are able to better capitalize by choosing better employment and business opportunities.

When the Forbes article Cloudy Skies For Tampa’s Young Professionals screamed through town last year I was amazed by the names I saw on a list of email forwards. At least half the people forwarding the email in agreement were people I have spoken with who claim to be too busy to get involved with local organizations.

We cannot blame outside forces like the weather for our income levels. Where would Miami be if it counted the sunshine factor?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Secrets Of Smart E-Mail Marketing

After a meeting this week with a client about creating an email newsletter I was doing some reading and found this article on the topic.

The article gives good tips and arguments for using an email management program as I do such as Constant Contact.

The section on "From" and "Subject" lines is probably the quickest high value piece of the article. I will have to try something new in my March "email newsletter".
The "From" line is important, but the subject line is where you set the trap. The key is attracting attention with imagery and specificity. Example: A subject line that reads "Five Plants Deer Won't Eat" is more compelling than "Monthly Newsletter."

Maybe, something like "Bashing failed Ybor businesses and drinking for the dogs" will be a good catch...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fuzzy math of government visioning

I'd like to note the irony in the 50 year planning currently being discussed; that will prepare us for the population that will be here in 2050.

Are we not actually working on a plan closer to 2060 then?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ybor City restaurants fail to market

The Citytimes article Ybor's fresh approach yesterday stirred some previous thoughts I've discussed individually with people but have never fully vetted in a written forum.

The above article announces the opening of Raw Sushi and Sake Lounge in Ybor City; in the same location as the two previous failed sushi restaurants, Sushi on 7th and Sushi Xtreme.
Raw Sushi co-owner Bob Volini talks positively about bringing an adult crowd to the district and says "I think it's time to come back."

The same article notes that Big City Tavern in Centro Ybor has now closed, whose owner, Brian Cornacchia, stated “my clientele just doesn't want to come to Ybor.”

How is that for a contrast in attitude?

Having not personally met him, where does Volini get the optimism when so many business owners have failed?

Based on what I have seen over the last seven years it is blind optimism or a sign of true entrepreneurship.

Unfortunately for most of the failed Ybor City restaurateurs it seems to be the former.

Taverna Opa

Taverna Opa opened in mid summer 2006 with a mayoral ribbon cutting and news coverage well before it opened. A year of renovation and construction went into the opening, yet less then a year later they closed.

I ate twice at Taverna Opa when it first opened, once by invitation for the grand opening and again to stop in for drinks and appetizers. The food and service were great and the environment was awesome.

While I love the Acropolis Greek Taverna a block away I think there was room for both in Ybor. The roominess and open air dining room of Opa lent itself to larger groups; there was even a section of the menu specifically to encourage that.

So what took out this mini chain from South Florida?

Outside of some mentions of staffing issues which comes with the territory and is amplified when business is slow, marketing is probably the biggest reason.

After the initial visits I was never once reminded they were there, directly (they had my mailing address) or indirectly (through advertising).
With the quality of food, service and group seating there is no way that they should have struggled through the travel, holiday and parade seasons in Ybor City.

Sushi Xtreme

Sushi Xtreme opened in early 2006 with owner Khue Dinh determined to make a name for himself and his unique take on Sushi dining.

Creative Loafing’s profile of Sushi Xtreme notes that Dinh’s house was on the line to make this venture work yet the inexperienced restaurateur proudly explained that he did absolutely no advertising for the restaurant.

Sometime in mid to late 2006 Dinh closed the restaurant due to lack of business.

I had been there on a few occasions, invited by a friend of Dinh’s and even booked a dinner party there for our Ad 2 Tampa Bay board leadership retreat. The service and food were at most passable which might have accelerated the closure.

Romeo's Studio 1515

Longtime supporters of Ybor City, Walter and Sara Romeo opened Studio 1515 in late 2003 with the hopes of drawing artists and an older, more affluent crowd to Ybor City for coffee, conversation, art and music.

Not a year later a St Pete Times article noted Sara Romeo positively urging fellow Ybor City merchants to wait for the results of a visioning study (to make further changes in the district) when the city was discussing changes to weekend street closings.

As owners of the building the Romeo’s lasted longer then others when they finally decided to close the doors in late 2005.

According to the St Pete Times article on the closing, Walter Romeo sited “a lack of daytime business in Ybor City” as the reason.

While I acknowledge Romeo’s upbeat attitude and claim that “if things start looking like there will be a need for a business there, we definitely would want to come back,” I have to disagree that lack of foot traffic was the problem.

I regularly meet with clients, associates and friends in Ybor City during the day and typically choose to frequent local independent businesses. I met with people a few times at Studio 1515 and unfortunately never once had a great experience.

Simply going to the counter to order coffee gave me the feeling I was interrupting the staff rather then giving them an opportunity to make me feel welcome and want to come back.

If the standoffish atmosphere coupled with a lack of encouragement to come back was typical to daytime visitors, the lack of foot traffic cannot be blamed.

Three Different Businesses

Susan Thurston’s column, Requiem for an arty hub about the closing of Romeo’s ironically notes the opening of Sushi Xtreme and Taverna Opa.

The three businesses vary greatly; from a successful and experienced restaurateur offering great food, service and atmosphere to a passionate sushi chef with dreams of changing the way we eat sushi to a couple looking to bring more culture to the district.

You don’t have to look further then the corner of 7th Avenue and 17th Street to see where all of the above businesses went wrong by not marketing.

Bernini of Ybor

Since 1996 Bernini of Ybor has “seen foot traffic gradually increase during the day” said owner Jason Fernandez in 2004 who also noted that the garages solved the parking problem and beefed up police presence helped as well.

If you’ve been to Bernini you know the place encompasses all the things the above failed businesses had in part or tried to attain.

The restaurant regularly hosts private parties and events, attracts affluent diners, provides a unique Ybor experience and breaks the mold from typical cuisine.

Why the stark difference in results?
He's doing well thanks to aggressive marketing at area hotels and businesses.
Rather than scale back operations like many have done, he expanded, creating a
private dining room for group parties and offering gift certificates and
Aggressive Marketing

The only common difference between numerous failed Ybor restaurants and Bernini’s success is Jason’s focus on continually reminding people of his business through marketing.

Provided Raw Sushi has the quality and service diners want, Bernini is a great example of how Bob Volini can be successful in Ybor City.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2008 ADDY Awards and After Party

The annual ADDY Awards Gala was held Saturday, February 9, 2008 at the Cuban Club in Ybor City under a crescent moon, a perfect venue for announcing the best advertising produced in 2007.

Entries in the local competition, sponsored by the Tampa Bay Advertising Federation, have grown nearly every year since 2002, and this year more than 100 companies submitted 850 pieces of work, from interactive games to outdoor boards.

At the end of the awards show Deanne Roberts was honored with the TBAF Silver Medal award.

The celebration continued at Bernini of Ybor with the Ad 2 Tampa Bay, ADDY After Party. Pedicab transportation was provided by Retro Star Pedicabs.

Ad 2 Tampa Bay board members Carl Vervisch, Kate Whatley, Mai Noel Tran, Vinny Tafuro, Cris Vatalaro and Jeff Morrow pause for a photo at the well attended exclusive after party. More photos available here.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Victoria's Secret Gamble

The most watched ad during the Super Bowl was the Victoria’s Secret commercial, which was seen by 103.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research data. Aired in the fourth quarter during a commecial pod at 9:44 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.

I would have to estimate that running an ad in the fourth quarter is a gamble for an advertiser considering the number of times a Super Bowl win is lopsided and people start tunning out the game by then.

With an extremely close game right up to the Giant's great win over the Patriots it ended up being a great win for Victoria's Secret as well.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Business & Community Update - February 2008

I will be providing regular updates in an effort to give valuable community and industry information to assist keeping clients, associates, friends and family informed on topics of timely interest.

Here's the link to February 2008's Email Newsletter.

Email managment and archiving is handled by Constant Contact.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hooperpalooza 2008

I attended Hooperpalooza 2008 last night, the 44th birthday party of the wildly popular St Pete Times columnist Ernest Hooper. I met Ernest through a friend about a month ago and gave him a website for his birthday,

The party was at Four Green Fields in South Tampa and had a mix of Tampa socialites, personalities and elected officials.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Sprint... No Longer with Nextel?

According to, this Washington Post article, Sprint Nextel may be writing of up to $31 billion related to the 2005 merger with Nextel Communications.
If taken in full, the write-off would eradicate all of the "goodwill," or the premium Sprint paid for assets related to the deal.

Wow, that has to hurt!

"Most people agree that the Nextel acquisition has been a disaster for Sprint, and I think that taking the charge just reinforces that perception," Watts said. "They had a much harder time integrating the Nextel network than they anticipated."

No matter how they attempt to distance themselves from the Nextel name I don't think there is much goodwill left in the Sprint name after this.

Many times when those of us with AT&T or Verizon Wireless drop a call with someone we assume they are a Sprint subscriber. Reviving the Sprint name could be as challenging as doing the same for the Pinto.