Its aim is to tell the U.S. story better than any other marketer does it.
Flush with $250 million to help it recoup and recover in its marketing and promotion of the Visit USA travel product, the board of directors of Brand USA recently held its Q4 meeting in Puerto Rico, which turned out to be a nice, polite way of signifying to other national destinations that the United States was prepared to compete for international travelers and dollars in just about every imaginable way. But first:
“All together shout it now
There’s no one
Who can doubt it now
So let’s tell the world about it now”
—Happy days are here again.
Music by Milton Ager; lyrics by Jack Yellen
As it turned out, the board’s meeting was the longest session it’s had in the memory of most who were there. And as do occasions and agendas like this one, it seemed to have a theme, a signature, that was easy enough to conjure up, given the talent pool of the organization’s 11 members. Television, as well as all of its kindred media modes, and U.S. destinations of all sizes and locales and with their uniquely American sound and signature, comprise an inexhaustible inventory for storytelling. And tell the country’s stories they will.
Brand USA is very serious about this. Serious enough that, following a presentation on the subject of finding a way to valuate storytelling media, Tom Garzilli, Brand USA’s chief marketing officer, underscored its importance in his own words. “It’s not just important to us. So many of our stakeholders are now doing so much more on this,” he said. “What’s interesting is that there is no standardized valuation method to measure the value of a consumer choosing to watch a minute, five-minutes, twenty minutes, of what is really advertising in the form of story-telling. We are able to measure for example, the value of the film because we were able to talk to consumers coming and coming out … but it’s really hard to do via (current) methods.”
Garzilli pointed out that Brand USA is already working with partners to address this issue. Participants in the initiative include such entities as Odyssey, a production company, Tourism Economics, Destination Analysts and various DMOs. Explained Garzilli, “Working with those partners … we are looking at and trying to come up with a common valuation that we can attach to telling the stories of our story-telling.” Briefly, here’s the situation as it stands.
● Toward a standard for valuating the stories—the challenge: No standardized valuation method exists to measure the impact and value for branded entertainment content on digital streaming and connected TV programs. Thus, understanding “the value of a minute watched” is difficult, imprecise and ambiguous at best.
● The solution: Odyssey has established, and is leading, a working group of major tourism industry DMO partners, research organizations and media partners to established a standardized measurement approach. The approach seeks to publish and continually refine an advertising equivalent value using public data sources to measure content watched against cost averages for similar types of video advertising.
● Next Steps: With a baseline model established, the working group is meeting to publish an initial standard by early Fall 2022.
Those wanting to get involved and work with Garzilli on this project are invited to contact him and join the effort.
About that $250 million for Brand USA: The global pandemic we’ve experienced (and still are experiencing) was certainly not an afterthought on any travel and tourism industry itinerary. Pushed beyond the limit of what was supposed to be a budget funded equally ($100 million in ESTA collected funds, matched by an another $100 million in matching industry contributions), Brand USA was ravaged by the pandemic, and had to scrambled merely to survive.
Mercifully, furious-but-effective lobbying by the U.S. Travel Association and its tourism sector associates and organizations was able to convince Congress to appropriate funds to help it stay alive. The $250 million is to be spread over three fiscal years (‘22, ‘23 and ’24)—the largest portion is going to be allocated by Brand USA in the upcoming FY 2023.
Board members used the occasion of their Puerto Rico meeting to approve the FY 2023 budget and give a required 60-day notice to the appropriate federal agencies to continue its operations.
Here’s the budget document, with the millions required and ready to tell all those stories about the USA.
Indeed, happy days are here again.