Howard who? Promotional ads will tempt tourists to find out New campaign will run next spring


The county Tourism Council wants to put Howard in Pennsylvania.

Howard who?


"Howard Who?" -- the tourism council's new ad campaign -- sounds a little like an Abbott and Costello routine.

It works like this: The tourism council would place an ad in a Philadelphia publication that reads, "Howard Who?" in large type.

"To Find Out About Howard, Call 1-800-288-TRIP," the ad would read.

Local merchants could share the publicity by paying $150 or more to have their logos on coupon-like ads boxed beneath the "Howard Who?" banner.

"Howard Who?" would be followed by "Howard's Huge!" (a general sales promotion), "Howard's A Showoff!" (to advertise dinner theaters), "Howard's An Antique" (to promote Ellicott City and Savage), and "Who said Howard Can't Dress?" (to showcase clothing stores).

The campaign was aired at the tourism council's annual meeting yesterday at Nixon's Farm in West Friendship.

During a question-and-answer period, Ellicott City restaurateur Patrick Patterson said, "What about Howard's Hungry" for restaurants? Or what about "Howard Sleeps Around" for hotels and motels, said Regina Ford, marketing and advertising director for Turf Valley Hotel and Country Club.

"You can see the humor, the possibilities in this campaign," said Ellie Butehorn, chairwoman of the tourism council's marketing committee.

Ms. Butehorn said the campaign came about because the marketing committee felt tourism advertising was "in a rut and needed new ideas."

She said the committee asked local advertising and design agencies for proposals based on three criteria: a new idea, an advertisement that could grow bigger as local firms joined in, and an ability to track responses to advertisements to see whether they are worth the money.

Four people made presentations, Ms. Butehorn said, but one -- Josh Kohn of Kohn Design -- developed the campaign that won the hearts of the committee.

Mr. Kohn said the problem in developing a campaign for the tourism council is that Howard County is an intangible product. He said "Howard Who?" was designed to stop readers and invite them to find out about the county.

The advertisements will run in Pennsylvania publications next April and May.

They will, in effect, be subsidized by county government. More than 92 percent of the tourism council's $217,000 budget is funded by a $200,000 county grant. The grant money comes from a 5 percent motel-hotel tax.

"There is a little more money in the budget" because of the hotel tax, County Executive Charles I. Ecker told tourism council members yesterday.

"Tourism is very important to the economic health of the county. Every employee of every hotel, store, and business establishment needs to treat people like they want to be treated. The customer is always right," the county executive said.

"With this budget, we really have to show results," Tourism Council President Margaret Smith told the membership.

Ms. Smith asked members to notify the council when people from Virginia and Pennsylvania visit their establishments.

"Our 800 number is getting tons of phone calls," she said. "And we have a voice at the end of that 800 number -- not a recording."

Ms. Smith will serve as president for a second year.

Other officers on the 15-member board of directors are:

Tom Owens, vice president; Jan Morrison, secretary; and William "Buck" Petry, treasurer.

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