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Friday, Jun 21, 2024

NewLamp

By HOWARD FINE Staff Reporter The New Los Angeles Marketing Partnership, which for the last five years has been heavily promoting L.A., closed its doors last week, to be replaced by a smaller group now being organized. The group, tentatively dubbed The Alliance, is being jointly formed by the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, the L.A. Convention and Visitors Bureau, and L.A.’s Business Team in Mayor Richard Riordan’s office. “As NewLAMP has been winding down, these organizations came together and decided that the work needed to continue,” said Regina Birdsell, NewLAMP’s outgoing executive director. “While this new group will still be focusing on L.A.’s image, it will also have a lobbying component to address the concerns of small and mid-sized businesses.” So far, the Alliance has a budget of $250,000, a fraction of New LAMP’s annual $4 million budget. The group is scheduled to hold its first board meeting later this month, when it expects to choose an executive director, start seeking more funds from L.A.-area businesses, and begin laying out goals and strategies. Birdsell does not plan to be involved in the Alliance, at least not initially. Instead, she plans to take a three-month break and consider her options. Meanwhile, NewLAMP itself wrapped up its work with an advertising blitz on radio and in local print media. In late March, the group took out two full-page ads in the Los Angeles Times one to celebrate the Democrats’ decision to hold their 2000 national convention in L.A. and the other to let people know the group was disbanding. “We had some money left in our ad budget and we decided we wanted to let our investors know that we’re going away,” Birdsell said. As NewLAMP disbands, opinions are mixed on how well it has achieved its core mission: to boost the city’s image and let people know that L.A. is a good place to do business. “Overall, it may not have been a blockbuster, but it did make a difference,” said Tom Decker, chairman of the L.A. Area Chamber and executive vice president with Bank of America. “On the margin, we are better off now than we would have been without NewLAMP.” Few would dispute that when NewLAMP formed in early 1994, L.A.’s image was in desperate need of a boost. Pummeled by the 1992 riots, several fires, the 1994 Northridge earthquake and the deepest recession in 60 years, L.A. was so down on itself that Riordan and other city leaders decided to forego bidding to host the 1996 Democratic National Convention. NewLAMP then launched its image-boosting campaign with a series of radio and print ads, as well as the ubiquitous banners proclaiming L.A. as “The nation’s #1 manufacturer,” or “Home to the nation’s #1 port.” In addition, NewLAMP established a hotline for business assistance programs. “At a time when things looked pretty bleak, NewLAMP helped the business community feel good about the successes of the L.A. economy and businesses,” said Lynne Doll, executive vice president and partner of Rogers & Associates, a Los Angeles public relations firm. “That was important. At the time, L.A. was a prime target for other cities and counties to lure away businesses. If our businesses didn’t feel good about where they were, they would have been more likely to listen to those other cities.” But once the city’s image began improving, NewLAMP should have changed its focus, said Larry Kosmont, a local economic development consultant. “With the local economy on a roll, people feel pretty good about things. There has been little need over the last year or two for a campaign designed to make local people feel better,” he said. “What is needed is a focus on the future, telling people and corporations outside L.A. that this is where the action is and, if you are not here, you need to be here.” Birdsell said such a campaign would require tens of millions of dollars, involving ads in national publications and commercials on national television. “We looked at this strategy and found that we would need an annual budget of $20 million to $40 million, or about 10 times our budget,” she said. “We felt that, with our limited resources, it was much more effective to focus the message to local people, who could then convince other people or companies to come here.” Birdsell said that with a budget of only $250,000 to start with, the new Alliance is unlikely to do much advertising at all. “The advertising program will be taken over by the Business Team and the Convention and Visitors Bureau,” she said. “For now at least, most of their efforts will be focused on print ads.” The business assistance hotline, Birdsell said, will be transferred to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. Much of the focus of the new Alliance, she said, will be on lobbying on behalf of small and mid-size businesses in the L.A. area at both the local and the state levels. While each of the Alliance’s member groups already have formal or informal lobbying arms, Birdsell said that on many issues the three groups should speak with one voice. Rogers & Associates’ Doll agreed. “There are still regulatory and legislative hurdles to businesses being able to operate competitively and successfully,” she said. “We need an effort like this Alliance to address those issues.”

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