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News Franklin TV spot targets Atlanta tourists

Local artist, Michael Rogers, presents a newly launched television commercial airing on Comcast channels in the Atlanta market. Photo by Christopher CarpenterIn an effort to draw more tourists from the Atlanta market, the Tourism Development Authority has launched the first of a series of TV spots advertising the highlights and attractions of the Town of Franklin.

Produced by local artist, Michael Rogers, in partnership with Tony Angel, a local web designer and marketing consultant, the first advertisement began airing last week and is set to run for three more weeks. The spot, which Angel calls a teaser, uses various still photographs and some video of local events, places of interest and the area's natural beauty to attract visitors Franklin.

The TV advertisement is part of a $75,000 tourism promotion campaign which the TDA has embarked on this year. The TDA has committed to a 32-week, three-season ad campaign with Comcast that will broadcast the commercials several times a day to more than 1.3 million households in the Atlanta market, on channels such as The Travel Channel, The History Channel and Lifetime, for a total cost of $50,000.

At a meeting of the TDA on Monday, Angel and Rogers presented the newly launched spot, as well as ideas to expand the scope of the campaign without significant additional costs. Besides the commercials running on Comcast Cable in the Atlanta market, the campaign also includes the development of two new websites and the production of a series of promotional videos.

“What we tried to do was create the first piece in this [series] as a teaser of what Franklin is, our slice of life,” Angel told the board, which had gathered in Rogers' Highlands Road studio. The advertisement attempts to position Franklin as an affordable and easily accessible destination in itself – only two hours north of Atlanta – as well as a hub for other popular destinations in the county and region.

“Franklin really is between Atlanta, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Greenville, Spartanburg, Asheville, Charlotte – we're in the center of all these major metropolitan areas,” Angel said. “Everyone can get here and enjoy this quiet, peaceful life that we have, then, if they want to do other things, Franklin is their home-base.”

“We're trying to impress people that there is a reason they need to come to Franklin, N.C,” Rogers added.

For the first video, Rogers and Angel were forced to use available video footage and still photos, but the team is encouraging the TDA to compile an archive of high definition video of places and events throughout the year that can be used for future productions and repurposed in multiple formats. Rogers presented footage he took at this month's April Fools Trail Days Festival as an example of the type of footage that would be useful for future promotion campaigns.

Rogers told the TDA members that, for a fee, he could video and edit each of the major events in Franklin – such as the Airing of the Quilts, the Taste of Scotland, the Folk Festival and Pumkin Fest – and create an archive of footage that would be owned by the TDA and which could be used in the current campaign as well as future campaigns.

While the videos are being produced for the Comcast TV spots, they can be reworked for various markets and repurposed for multiple formats, including YouTube-hosted video embedded on websites and promotional DVDs, Rogers explained. He added that though the initial investment to produce the videos is higher (approximately $8,000 each), compared to such promotional tools as print advertisements and brochures, the videos create a valuable resource.

“We want to do something different that's going to have an impact,” Rogers said of the broad potential of the project to help brand Franklin as a desirable tourist destination.

The new TDA website – at www.DiscoverFranklinNC.com – was launched simultaneously last week with the beginning of the TV campaign. In the first three days there were 300 hits on the brand new site, almost all from Georgia. Angel said that the website was designed to be easy to update and keep content fresh.

Angel also proposed that a Facebook page be set up for the TDA that could link to YouTube videos. The main purpose of the online videos and the Facebook page will be to direct visitors to the website, which was designed to be the main portal for information about attractions, accommodations and events in Franklin.

According to Angel, other communities in Western North Carolina, including Asheville and Waynesville, have also begun aggressive ad campaigns to attract tourists from Atlanta. Angel believes Franklin has one advantage, however: “They have to come through here to get there,” he said.

TDA chairperson, Candy Presley, said that she felt the TV campaign was being launched at a very good time for Franklin. “Right now is the best time for the commercial to be airing because Franklin has so much to offer for free,” she said, referring to the wealth of trails and natural beauty in the area. “Right now, it can cost two, three, five-hundred dollars just to drive somewhere and back, but you can come here and go hiking and see nature and waterfalls, and it doesn't cost a thing.”

Other presentations: WNC smart phone tour app, Bike rally organizer

The TDA also heard a presentation on a smart-phone application under development that will provide visitors to Western North Carolina with information about attractions and businesses while guiding them on tours in the region. The “app,” to be called “Ugo Tour N.C. Mountains,” is a project of Smoky Mountain Host in partnership with Ashevillebased Story Point Media and seeded by a $10,000 grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area organization. It will be the first such tour app developed for the region. The basic framework for the app will be leased from an Austin-based software development firm. Smoky Mountain Host and its partners are looking for investments from “founder” communities to help launch the app next month. Founder communities must invest $11,000 for the first year, including $500 from 10 local businesses that would be featured on the app.

Sylvia Cochran, national editor for U.S. Rider News, a motorcycle enthusiast publication, also attended Monday's meeting. Cochran, who organizes several motorcycle rallies around the country, including the annual Reunion Run in Helen, Ga., outlined a basic proposal for organizing and promoting such an event in Franklin. The event in Helen, held in the first week June, is now in its 11th year. Cochran said that in order to allow time to promote the event, it would be best if the town scheduled its first one in 2010. She recommended holding the event in late September. Cochran said she would charge the TDA $3,500 to $4,000, which would go toward promotional expenses.

Not enough members to make a quorum attended Monday's TDA meeting, so no actions were taken by the board. The TDA is funded by a three percent occupancy tax collected from tourists staying at local motels or inns within Franklin's city limits. The nine-member TDA board is staffed by business owners, tourism promoters and local government representatives. The board is still searching for volunteers to fill two seats which became open at the beginning of the year.


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