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News Story
Updated: 04/05/2014 08:00:00AM

Citrus commission changing its public approach

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By BRIAN ACKLEY

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The Florida Citrus Commission, at least for now, is getting out of the television advertising business.

For decades a staple of the group’s yearly budget, millions previously spent to promote Florida orange juice by using television advertising will now be spent to bolster the commission’s public relations efforts and digital media presence.

The decision is based largely on economics, because much of the commission’s budget comes from a tax on fruit. This year’s crop is expected to be the smallest in at least two decades, coming in at somewhere around 110 million boxes.

“It’s very similar to what each of you are going through with your individual businesses. You have to look at the volume that you’re running now and you have to make tough decisions on resource allocation,” Douglas Ackerman, the commission’s executive director, told the group in late March. “We have an infrastructure that was set up for 240 million boxes of fruit.”

At the March meeting, the commission approved termination of a contract with BBDO, an advertising agency that has been in charge of the national television campaign.

Contracts with MARS Advertising, GolinHarris and The Food Group were left untouched. MARS is a firm that markets more directly to consumers, while GolinHarris is a public relations firm and the Food Group which works in the food service business.

“They all have creative capabilities. We’re very confident we’re not giving up anything on creative development,” Ackerman said.

He said their review indicated that less might be more in the end.

“We looked at the extreme overlap, and what we have on the bench. We’ve met individually with each of our partners to try and figure out how can we accomplish what we need to accomplish and still move forward to write the next chapter in Florida citrus and FDOC marketing,” he said.

Ackerman said the FDOC has spent between $7 million and $10 million on television advertising over the past two years.

Commission staff will pay especial attention to online PR and advertising efforts going forward, he indicated.

“Our digital footprint is something that we’ve had extensive talks about,” Ackerman said. “We need a lot of work in our digital footprint and social media platform.”

Much of the public relations efforts will include being quicker and more authoritative in spreading a healthy message about Florida orange juice.

“At the end of the day, what you have told me, and what the industry has told us, is that you want to us to focus on public relations, health and wellness, and other areas,” he said. “In order to do that, we have to move resources that will better support that strategy.”

Commission chairman Martin McKenna recalled that when he first was named to the group, Florida was producing about 148 million boxes of fruit. He also had a discussion at that time with an BBDO executive about their television outreach efforts.

“I said ‘there’s got to be a critical breaking point on when an advertiser spends enough money to get a bang for their buck and when he doesn’t have enough money he might as well save it,’” McKenna recalled. “I said, ‘are we there yet?’ And he said, ‘not quite, you’re just barely spending enough.’ We’re not able to spend that in today’s environment.”


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