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Downtown group plots advertising strategy

The Downtown Improvement District is establishing its priorities for the next five years, which includes more effective promotion of the heart of the city.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. October 26, 2017
  • Sarasota
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Mark Kauffman is a retired surgeon, a prominent real estate investor and a member of the Downtown Improvement District board of directors. He is not, however, a marketing expert.

That’s why, as the DID assesses its priorities for the immediate future and next five years, Kauffman is reluctant to devote too much attention to the details of how a promotional campaign comes together.

The DID recently has focused on an advertising campaign marketing downtown as a destination. DID board members hope to unite the various organizations within downtown behind a single message. One thing working to the group’s advantage: They have money available for marketing, generating funds through a tax on commercial properties within the DID boundaries.

Kauffman, like the rest of the board, is comfortable dedicating some of the DID’s $634,000 annual budget toward advertising. But as the board works alongside local advertising agency atLarge Inc. to develop a unified marketing campaign, Kauffman is advocating for hiring an outside professional to make decisions on the best way to promote downtown.

“I just don’t want to be the one deciding how the money is spent,” Kauffman said.

At an Oct. 3 meeting, atLarge founder Anand Pallegar provided an update on the DID’s ongoing branding and marketing effort. Working with marketing firm Boost Studio, atLarge is focused on using the existing We Are Downtown campaign and tailoring it to different districts within the greater downtown area.

The group wants to promote downtown as a mosaic, made up of different segments that produce a vibrant whole. Through this strategy, the DID is hopeful other areas, such as Burns Court and the Rosemary District, will be more eager to participate.

After looking at preliminary banner designs Pallegar shared, board member Daniel Volz suggested the district-focused branding effort could also help visitors navigate the different areas of downtown.

“If we can accomplish a rudimentary wayfinding system by branding our various mosaic pieces, if you will, then we’re getting a bonus out of the whole exercise,” Volz said.

Pallegar will return to a future DID meeting with more details on branding and marketing.

Setting priorities

On Oct. 18, the DID continued another ongoing exercise: a strategic planning effort, designed to help clarify the group’s agenda for the next three to five  years.

Future capital improvement projects could include adding public restrooms and crosswalks, improving sidewalks, landscaping and storefronts and installing gateway signage and other wayfinding tools.

Board member Steve Seidensticker suggested the DID could do more to lobby city officials to address the needs of downtown stakeholders. The group has said the DID is too frequently asked to complete tasks the city should be addressing, such as landscape maintenance.

“We have a voice,” Seidensticker said. “We need to use it.”

The board also discussed the possibility of expanding its boundaries to generate more revenue. In 2015 and 2016, the DID considered incorporating the Rosemary District, but property owners in the area said they weren’t interested.

Although there still exists some interest in increasing the DID’s spending power, Kauffman believes it wouldn’t be efficient for the group to expand into the still-developing Rosemary District.

“They have their own problems,” Kauffman said. “They should have their own DID.”


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