Jodi Schwan asks us to “get beyond Mars.”
Funny she should make that request, given that she was the one to spotlight the “Not as bad as Mars” message that the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and ad agency Lawrence & Schiller decided was the best way to sell South Dakota. After helping GOED launch its naked scream for contentless, messageless attention, Schwan seems to make excuses for GOED and L&S’s silliness, daring us to do better:
So I asked Commissioner Pat Costello: If people think they can do a better job marketing this state, are you open to using those ideas?
“Absolutely,” he said. “I get emails regularly from people interested in helping with our missions in economic development.”
If you lead a business or an organization, consider taking a similar approach. See yourself as the center of a network instead of at the top of a ladder [Jodi Schwan, “Let’s Get Beyond Mars,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.04.25].
Sure, Jodi, I’m happy to help. But bloggers and Costello’s e-mailers and the rest of South Dakota aren’t a professional ad agency being paid three million dollars over three years from the Governor’s slush fund to come up with intelligent ad campaigns that tell South Dakota’s real story. I’m having a little trouble getting beyond the fact that we paid for this Mars foolishness.
But o.k. fine, if GOED told Schwan to run some press to tamp down the criticism of its ad tactics and spending, let’s get beyond Mars. Let’s talk about what GOED is missing in its workforce recruitment approach. GOED and Lawrence & Schiller rolled out the Mars campaign at the state’s annual economic development conference. GOED spent last year leading extensive discussions about workforce development. But at last week’s conference, GOED gave no sign that it has any plan related to one of the key aspects of increasing our workforce: immigration.
No, not immigration from Des Moines, Rochester, Peoria, and the other safe Midwestern places where Lawrence & Schiller focus-grouped people who look mostly like what GOED imagines South Dakota should look like to build its Mars campaign. Foreign immigration.
Immigrants from places like Burma, Somalia, and Latin America are providing such substantial proportions of the workforce for the dairies and value-added ag operations that owners are pressuring our Congressional delegation to loosen immigration rules. Aberdeen’s economic developers have decided that the primary target for filling Brown County’s workforce needs should be foreign immigrants.
Yet from what I’ve heard, neither GOED chief Costello nor anyone else addressing the crowd of officials and entrepreneurs at last week’s conference breathed a substantive word about immigration. GOED and L&S seem entirely focused on recruiting people who look like us from places that look like ours
Maybe recruiting and advertising in foreign markets isn’t as fun or attention-grabbing or profile-boosting for our state’s favored marketing contractor as cutesy Lady-Godiva-esque efforts to get their product on The Tonight Show (yes, mission accomplished, real feather in the cap). But for three million dollars, you’d think GOED and Lawrence & Schiller could get beyond their tunnel vision of South Dakota Whitopia and work on a serious campaign to reach more of the workers we need in foreign markets.