Treasures of Toledo

Today, Sunday, December 8, 2013, the Toledo Blade included a 106-page advertising supplement called Treasures of Toledo with its Sunday paper delivery. (I do not see anything online yet: if the content becomes available digitally, I will add a link. So far, I can only find the price list for advertisers.) It is sub-titled “Gems that impress local, national and international visitors.” It includes cultural institutions, community organizations, and some family-owned businesses. The typical entry for each advertiser is a self-written article on the left and a full-page ad on the right.

Some will laugh when they read the Joseph Zerbey “To Our Readers” part about the “negativity about everything Toledo” because they fault the Blade for a lot of that negativity. Maybe this is an attempt to make up for what other parts of the paper do to hurt the image of the region. Or maybe it is just a way to make money from organizations who are spending less on paper-based media.

Regardless, it is important to understand the audience this is intended for. Zerbey ends with: “This is a great area to raise a family, to get a job, to earn a diploma, to have fun, to worship in peace and to help the less fortunate.” From my list, it seems clearly targeted at residents and talent. It could help with talent retention and attraction by raising awareness of these treasures. It should help increase resident morale.

It is a partial view of the “quality of life” factor, neglecting other aspects like cost of living that go into the total equation when people consider where they want to live.

If you are likeĀ Jeffrey Potter, mega-host of The Business Blackboard, you will probably puke when you see the Blade supplement, because you are tired of hearing about the quality-of-life assets. As a business leader, he cares about business assets, such as a skilled workforce, transportation to markets, and business taxes. He regularly says things like “No one moves a business here because of the Zoo or the Museum” and he is correct. Again, it is important to craft the region’s messages to the target audience. The supplement won’t help a business in the region develop an innovative project and grow. It won’t convince a CEO to move a headquarters or build a factory here. It is not intended to. Hopefully it will help with the talent retention/attraction and resident morale aspect, only a part of the challenge.

I find it interesting that 2 of the “classic” economic development players did choose to advertise: Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and RGP (back page). Both messages from them are correctly geared for the residents, reminding us what they are doing to develop and promote the assets to the world.

As nice as having all of this positive content in one place is, I have three basic problems with it:

  • There is some lip service to the Toledo region, but there are very few “gems” from outside the city of Toledo. I see a car dealership from Monroe & BGSU, and some regional groups like TARTA & United Way. Kudos to the Toledo Opera for featuring a map of the region showing its educational outreach. Zerbey hopes this will be an annual section: the next one needs to represent the whole region better.
  • If you pick what I believe is the most important talent retention/attraction audience – young people who are likely to start-up their own businesses – then I suspect this won’t help much. It probably just reinforces that the “old farts” do not understand what they care about. A future edition should be focused on the gems that this audience cares about.
  • It is advertising-driven. Ads have its place, of course, but I think, in general, stories told from an advertising point-of-view are a lot less effective than more “genuine” stories. If you really want to get residents excited about Christmas lights, a contemporary church, comfortable mattresses, and helping students, then personal stories told by other residents connect at an emotional level better than ads.

Still, nice to have this advertising supplement of treasures. Nice to see the Blade publishing something positive. The Blade gets a +1 today!