City's new ads target Seattle/King County

Editor’s note: Dana Greenlee’s technology column will return next Friday.

The “Wired City” began its friendly invasion of the “Emerald City” today.

City officials this morning unveiled a new ad campaign designed to entice Seattle metro-area businesses to expand or relocate to Tacoma.

Mayor Bill Baarsma, Economic Development Department Director Juli Wilkerson and other officials were on hand during a press conference in the executive boardroom of the Sheraton Hotel to provide details about the month-long project, the next step in Tacoma’s “America’s #1 Wired City” marketing campaign.

“We’re here today to launch a new ad campaign we’re really excited about,” Baarsma said.

Tacoma is taking on Seattle in a fun way, the mayor stressed, noting Tacoma doesn’t see itself as taking away a lot of business from Seattle so much as showcasing Tacoma as an affordable alternative for businesses.

“We’ve got to keep working to recruit businesses to Tacoma,” Baarsma said. “In other words: Think Tacoma.”

In 1999, a marketing campaign was launched to build a new image for Tacoma as “America’s #1 Wired City,” based on Tacoma being home to the nation’s largest, municipally-owned telecommunications system.

That campaign helped generate positive publicity for Tacoma in major publications like The New York Times, Business Week, Inc. magazine and other media outlets around the nation and the world.

The ad campaign unveiled today is the next step in building Tacoma’s reputation as a business-friendly location.

“Economic development is up in Tacoma,” Baarsma noted, citing the fact that about 2,000 new businesses have started up in the city over the last two years and the fact that Tacoma is ranked ninth in the nation in terms of business start-ups.

Tacoma is also the site of a great deal of construction activity, including the building of the Museum of Glass, the new Tacoma Art Museum, various Thea Foss Waterway projects and Tacoma Link light rail.

“We really think it’s exactly the right time,” Wilkerson said of the ad campaign’s timing.

The business climate in the region cooled in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Boeing layoffs and the recession, but is beginning to return to normal.

“Tacoma is alive and well – and maturing,” she said.

David Graybill of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce said different factors – cost and location – are driving businesses these days, as opposed to past considerations, such as work force.

Companies are looking to move away from consolidating their assets, and are instead looking to diversify, which could be good for Tacoma, Graybill said.

Tacoma’s new campaign – a combination of print, billboard and radio ads that run through May – show businesses how they can save time and money by moving to Tacoma, playing up the city’s fiber-optic network, its eight-week guaranteed permitting process, affordable office space and reasonable commutes.

The total cost of the campaign is about $124,000, according to Wilkerson.

“Everything is pretty much going to kick off next week,” said Charlie Barnett of Augustus Barnett Advertising and Design, the local firm that helped develop the ads.

The theme of the ads is based on the 1948 detective film “ The Naked City,” he said.

That film is best know for the line, “There are thousands of stories in the naked city.”

The city’s ads play on that line, modifying it to say “There are hundreds of success stories in the Wired City.”

Local illustrator Stan Shaw is responsible for the hard-edge cartoon drawings that capture a film noir feeling.

The print ads will appear in the Seattle Times, Puget Sound Business Journal and Washington CEO magazine.

Twenty-nine billboards covering high traffic areas in the Seattle metro, Issaquah and East King County and two in downtown Tacoma have been or will soon be put up and run through the month.

A total of 195, 60-second radio spots will start running on local radio stations beginning the week of May 6.

Tacoma is complimenting the ads with a direct mail campaign to about 900 Seattle-area companies.

The ads are also posted on the city’s campaign Web site at:

“We’re in this for the long run. We’re going to have to keep at this for a long time,” Wilkerson said. “I think the business community is very supportive of this.”