Watch out for the multiplier hooey

States inventing wild statistics

As savvy San Diegas brace themselves for absurd claims of how a football stadium will boost the economy, and how tourism advertising will bring in tax dollars, an April 24 article by Matthew Hennessey, in the publication City Journal, sheds light on government-concocted nonsense. Hennessey tells how states inflate numbers to claim that their tourism advertising brings in tax dollars.

Last year, Michigan's $13 million campaign, "Pure Michigan," was said to bring in $86.6 million in tax dollars. Nevada claims its campaign attracted $98 million in tourist-related tax dollars. (Everbody knows that gambling and prostitution — as embodied in Las Vegas's brilliant "Sin City" designation — are what bring people to Nevada. That's my comment — not Hennessey's.)

Colorado claimed its $4.5 million ad campaign brought $898 million in tourism spending. But, points out Hennessy, that's nonsense unless "everything [tourists] buy, from ski poles to schnapps, is entirely produced in the state." And that's impossible. Hennessey says that if advertising is as effective as states claim, why isn't more shelled out? "If spending $1 on tourism gets you $200 in return, why not spend $200, or $2 million, or $200 million?"

Comments

I wonder how much unreported money is spent to buy politicians to decide in favor of these things ?

Murphyjunk: Once the money has gone under the table, and the ads run, the next step is ex post factor statistically justifying the expenditure. The creativity that requires is more impressive than the creativity that goes into making the ads. Best, Don Bauder

Is this a teaching moment? It doesn't matter; you can't shut up a professor. Pencils ready? Title: Beyond Hooey There are four classic channels for promoting revenue, with no bright lines between. Public Relations: everything you do that isn't sales Direct Marketing: Media appeals including a closer, typically reinforced by urgency (cents off today) Sales: Individualized negotiation aiming to close a deal Advertising: Here's the thing people misunderstand. Advertising neither asks for the order nor delivers information. It is an emotional appeal (Attraction) that precedes the sales negotiation (Bargain) that leads to a deal (Close). Easy as A B C, but notice that "advertising" is an expense with no direct, much less indirect, connection to sales. In the case of San Diego tourism advertising (regional, Zoo, Sea World) the appeals are so diffuse and incoherent as to be immeasurable. That is just the thing for an emotional appeal for a bigger budget. Hennessey's suggestion is a good test of the "some's good, more's better" argument. It also begs the question, what is San Diego doing in the other three channels. Answer: Shooting itself in the foot with corruption and sex scandals while Balboa Park's centennial celebration turns to, Mr Bauder's excellent word, hooey. That was a unique proposition that could have filled all four channels. It worked so well a century ago, we're still coasting on that deal. Too little, too late now. Pencils down. We all fail.

rehftmann: There is supposedly an investigation of the Balboa Park flop. But will it be an investigation or coverup? Almost certainly the latter. What were some of the people doing who were being paid very well to work on the Balboa celebration? You would be surprised. Best, Don Bauder

Future stadium marketing ploy:

ATTENTION CHARGER FANS

Which of these City Projects would you support?

__ New Stadium for San Diego's Best Team

__ Road and sidewalk repair

__ Toilet to tap water reclamation

CaptD: Infrastructure might win, but council will ignore the will of the people. Best, Don Bauder

Change that question to "Which of these City projects would you want to pay for?" and the results would be quite different.

Visduh: It SHOULD be a close call between road and sidewalk repair and toilet to tap water reclamation. The third shouldn't even be on the list. But realistically...... Best, Don Bauder

I wonder how much money the new arena being built in the bankrupt city of Detroit is projected to bring in.

aardvark: I don't know the number, but I do remember that the Michigan governor said the arena for the multi-billionaire Ilitch family would pay off in new development, etc. -- a typical political falsehood. Best, Don Bauder

Breaking down the Colorado nonsense (which was breathlessly reported as fact in the Denver Post):

"The Strategic Marketing and Research group surveyed Colorado vacationers who had seen the ads, which aired heavily in Phoenix, Dallas and Chicago. The group asked whether the ads had persuaded a visit to Colorado, and if so, how much money did the vacationers spend."

1) This is making no differentation between people who visited Colorado only because of the ads, and people who saw the ads but would have vacationed there whether or not they ever saw the ads.

2) There is no verification whatsoever. The survey takes it purely on faith that the respondents actually visited Colorado and actually spent the amount in Colorado that they claim to have spent.

3) As Don noted, even if there was a real, accurate amount of dollars spent, it would be gross dollars spent in the state, and only 10-20 percent of that would be net dollars accruing to Colorado businesses and taxing entities.

Matt101: Blatantly false statistics are ubiquitous. Trouble is, they make interesting news, and journalists don't check to see if they make any sense. Best, Don Bauder

Tourism is becoming a progressively less desirable industry as is becomes more widespread. Don, you refer to Las Vegas, and it is only able to hang on to its status as a destination city by offering ever-more sleazy attractions. At one time it might have even been a sort of "family destination", with big stars featured at shows that ordinary folks could afford. What they have now has become something out of a nightmare for many. Oh, it still attracts some visitors from around the globe, but after one visit, how many foreigners return? Are all other tourist cities now forced to compete with LV sin and sleaze? I'd say that is coming if not already upon us.

What is the "LV sin and sleaze" you refer to? Is it the brilliant Cirque du Soleil shows (8 of them now) in Vegas? The new luxury hotels? Upscale eateries? Are there tens of thousands of hookers swarming all over the Strip and downtown, like an invasion of killer bees? And "gambling and prostitution" are not what draws people to LV these days. This is 2014, not 1964, and the "Rat Pack" is long gone, folks. The majority of visitor dollars are NOT spent on gambling today. More money is instead spent on classy hotels, fine restaurants, entertainment, conventions and shop-till-you-drop SHOPPING. Gaming is now secondary in the Vegas revenue stream. [Doubters can verify that fact by contacting the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.]

dwbat: I don't call it gaming. I call it gambling. Imagine Vegas without the casino business, or without legalized betting on sports events. It would sink right back into the dusty desert town that existed before Bugsy Siegel moved in.

When we go through Vegas, I insist on getting out of town before we find a motel. I don't want to spend a nickel there. Every motel out of town has a slot machine, of course. I usually put in a quarter just to say that I participated in the business that drives Vegas. Best, Don Bauder

You may be correct about the luxury attractions. Gambling is not something that Nevada any longer has all to itself. I must admit that I cannot stand LV, its climate, its traffic, and the attitude of the people who labor in the tourist attractions is just the worst. Hence I haven't spent any significant time there in too many years to count. But that campaign of a few years ago, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" was an oh-so thinly disguised appeal for the sleaze and sin trade, and for me said it all.

Actually, the phrase "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" is not correct. The correct marketing phrase (which doesn't use the word "Vegas" is: "What happens here, stays here." Also, since you haven't been there for "too many years to count," how can you comment on what Vegas is today? Give it a another try, and let us know what you experience there.

I doubt I'll give it "another try." There are too many other places that I like, or that I've yet to visit. I'll try them first.

Visduh: You can actually go to civilized places and get gambling, since it has spread all across the country. This is another case of states adopting vice because the neighboring state is stealing tax money through its vice operations. That's how sleaze spreads and multiplies. The lottery is another example of the same phenomenon. Best, Don Bauder

dwbat: Visduh is correct. The ad campaign is a thinly disguised attempt to trumpet Sin City's lowbrow attractions -- namely, gambling and prostitution. Oh yes: you can also get married on a whim at a 24-hour "chapel." And repent, when you sober up, at leisure. Best, Don Bauder

Visduh: At one time, the Las Vegas leadership tried to tout the city as a family tourist destination. But it dropped that. (I think it was mob lawyer/mayor Oscar Goodman who decided to ditch the family idea, but I wouldn't swear on it.)

Las Vegas sells itself as Sin City. It is a haven for gambling and hookers. It also has capacious facilities for conventions. The Las Vegas media worship the mobsters who built the city. Let's face facts. Best, Don Bauder

Vegas city promoters use the word "gaming" instead of "gambling." Once again, "gambling and hookers" is not where the big money is spent in Vegas. THAT is factual, regardless what others may state. When someone goes "through Vegas" without staying, they really don't understand the city at all. Can someone take a quick drive through Chicago, stay at a cheap motel in Joliet, and possibly comprehend the essence of Chicago? Of course not.

dwbat: How do you know that gambling and hookers are not where the big money is spent in Vegas? You can measure the gambling take, although I doubt it is honestly reported. But prostitution is part of the underground economy. Some try to estimate the prostitution business, but it's not easy.

Once again, I repeat what I said before. What would Las Vegas be without casinos? It would revert to its pre-1940s status as a dusty little desert burg with a bunch of whorehouses to service the men who worked on Hoover Dam.

That reminds me of a story from academia. The definition of a sociologist is a person who will spend half a million dollars of the government's money to pinpoint the location of every brothel in town, when for five bucks he could have asked a taxicab driver. Best, Don Bauder

To all who don't understand the "new" Vegas: Here's an excerpt from The New York Times article of July 31, 2013, titled "Crowds Return to Las Vegas, but Gamble Less": "A shift in the structure of the economy that began about a decade ago appears to have accelerated. Gambling is no longer king. A new influx of tourists, younger and less devoted to gambling, are likelier to open their wallets for extravagantly priced nightclubs and day clubs, which have joined concerts and musical shows, high-end restaurants, luxury shopping and some of the more exotic types of entertainment this city is renowned for offering." I rest my case. Please email or call Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, if you are STILL a Doubting Thomas about the accurate information I previously provided here. Remember, facts trump opinions.

dwbat: I read the New York Times every day but don't believe everything therein. I have seen some horrible NY Times stories in the travel section. For decades, I have been hearing people claim, "I only go to Las Vegas to see the shows and eat at great restaurants." Are you suggesting that I should start believing such tales? And are you suggesting that I should start believing those hucksters at the Vegas visitors authority?

There is one point that may bolster your case. My guess is that prostitution was a bigger proportion of the Las Vegas's economy in the 1930s than it is now. Indeed, prostitution may have been the biggest industry in the 1930s. Ask the promoters at the visitors authority about that. Best, Don Bauder

Not directed at anyone by name as I won't be baited: The NY Times article mentioned was in the "U.S." section, not the travel section. It's a legit news piece. The same reporter wrote a story on SD Opera (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/14/arts/music/death-knell-for-opera-in-san-diego-after-49-years.html). But that article is only one of many articles about Las Vegas today. I just selected one I found quickly. I don't need to contact the visitors authority, as I already know the information about how visitors spend their money. It's well documented, and doesn't change just because some people don't agree. Once again, it is not our father's Vegas! I'm done here.

Good. But it is still hard to believe that people will travel to that hellhole of a place for all those upscale attractions. Are there no other cities that offer shows, hotels, restaurants, shopping, etc.? I can think of one that does. It is LA. (Funny.) But there is also San Francisco. Oh, and there's San Diego. Hmmm.

Visduh: Yes, but in San Diego, the casinos are so distant from the downtown. Best, Don Bauder

dwbat; Don't move to Vegas. We need you here. Just go on weekends, as many hookers do. Best, Don Bauder

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