Business Owners’ Reaction Mixed to Stronger Than The Storm Campaign

NJ Spotlight News | January 17, 2014 | Politics
Some Jersey Shore business owners believe the Stronger Than The Storm ads were beneficial, others disagree.

By Lauren Wanko

It’s all about the governor, says Ocean Grove Melrose Bed and Breakfast owner Randy Bishop.

“I do believe it was a much more self-serving type of ad,” said Bishop. “I do think perhaps he focused the ad more on him than what was going on at the shore.”

Summer at the shore has come and gone, but the focus on a federal audit of the state’s $25 million tourism marketing campaign hasn’t wavered.

“Audits of federal expenditures of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, including disaster-related activities, are something this office does routinely. An audit was initiated in September 2013 to examine whether the state administered its Tourism Marketing Program in accordance with applicable departmental and Federal requirements,” reads a statement from HUD.

The department adds this is an audit and not an investigation of the procurement process.

“I think in the end what we’re learning of this tourism audit of the tourism ad is actually gonna help Chris Christie in many ways because it was overplayed to begin with. It really wasn’t an investigation of the procurement so it helps Chris Christie. It looks like people are trying to pile onto him,” said Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray.

But Bishop says the commercial wasn’t effective in attracting tourists to the shore this summer.

“We kept reminding everyone we had a storm and how horrific it was,” Bishop said.

Still other business owners insist Gov. Christie’s reached rock star status — status that sells.

“When you put named people, headline people in the commercial, it sells a product better and it sells the Jersey Shore better when Gov. Christie’s in the commercials,” said Black Trumpet owner Mark Mikolajczyk.

“Any time you put a rock star on, it’s about the rock star, it’s not about what they’re selling far too often, and in this case it needed to be about the product not the person,” Bishop said.

“Having him on there talking helped. I don’t know if his family made a difference but it definitely helped let people know the shore was back up and running,” said Bob Matthews of Fisherman’s Den.

Business was down about 30 percent at the Fisherman’s Den this summer. Still, employee and Democrat Bob Matthews credits the commercial with bringing what tourists they did have into the store. Another Democrat, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty, agrees the ad helped drive tourists to the beach.

“I think the marketing they did last year was very effective and it seems to me to make sense to have the governor in the ads. He is a celebrity whether you like his policies or not,” Doherty said.

Despite the different opinions on the commercial, the audit continues.