I thought maybe the Governor’s Office of Economic Development was just teasing us with their vague written report about the “impressions” and interactions” generated by their high-dollar advertising efforts. I thought maybe they’d drop the marketspeak in front of Joint Appropriations and talk real results.
But no: the green-eye-shaded lawmakers gathered at the Capitol yesterday got the same flim-flam:
Some lawmakers expressed frustration Monday upon learning the state’s $5 million workforce recruitment campaign — which includes television ads featuring Gov. Kristi Noem — is not directly measuring how many workers it recruits.
…Finance Director Travis Dovre said the campaign has focused on neighboring states, plus California, Colorado and Nevada. He said the campaign’s social media posts, commercials and other marketing efforts have generated more than 800 million “impressions” — a measurement of the number of times an ad has been seen — while 7,568 people have requested more information on South Dakota.
A slide in his presentation said 1,900 people “are in the final stages of finding their career here.” Under questioning from legislators, state Department of Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman said that’s the number of out-of-state people who have asked for a state-assigned job adviser to help them find work in South Dakota.
Dovre said attributing an exact number of those people to Freedom Works Here is difficult because what makes someone move to a state is complicated.
“We will probably never be able to have an exact number,” he said. “Website traffic is up, click-through rates are above national averages, so whatever we’re doing with those ads is getting people’s attention” [Joshua Haiar, “Some Lawmakers Frustrated by Lack of Specific Data from Governor’s Workforce Campaign,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2023.11.13].
Attention may be all the Governor wants, but at least a few legislators, even Republican legislators, want to see real results:
Republican Rep. Chris Karr asked where the money went. “We’re just trying to track and understand what’s happening,” he said, wondering how GOED would determine whether the Freedom Works Here campaign was a success.
Replied Dovre, “It’s a long game. The long-term results are starting to speak for themselves, now that we’re a few years into it.” He added, “Stay in front of those potential consumers, or they’ll forget about South Dakota and go somewhere else.”
Karr said that he’s been involved in marketing campaigns and always identified a way to determine if they succeeded. He suggested GOED’s staff was smart enough to figure it out.
Republican Sen. Jean Hunhoff, who chairs the committee, said Schilken and the GOED staff should bring more information when they return in January for their office’s budget hearing. “I think you can do that,” she said [Bob Mercer, “Lawmakers Grill GOED Head on ‘Freedom Works Here’,” KELO-TV, 2023.11.13].
Notice that Dovre’s response to Rep. Karr doesn’t just flop around in vagueness but undermines any claim his boss the Governor might make that her bad-plumber ads have single-handedly boosted the state’s economy. If GOED’s marketing is a “long game” and we’re “a few years into it”, then any results that are “starting to speak for themselves” must have come from previous years’ efforts, not from Noem’s latest Me for VP! campaign.
And of course, the results that are speaking for themselves are a persistent shortage of workers, lack of affordable housing, and declining median household income. Bring some information to Appropriations in January on how your impressions and interactions are solving those problems, Mr. Dovre.