West Deptford green space has long been viewed as one of the top amenities in the township, but could it actually generate greenbacks for the township?
That's at least part of the plan, according to committeeman Sam Cianfarini.
At last week's meeting of the township committee, residents questioned as to whether any progress had been made by Active Network—the marketing consultancy contracted for $40,000 to help drive new advertising revenue for the township.
“Right now, we’re in the process of reviewing a proposal," said Solicitor Anthony Ogozalek, that he described as “kind of groundbreaking in New Jersey.”
“We have to work on the wording to keep it real tight,” Ogozalek said, adding, “the RFP should be available within the next couple weeks.”
Ogozalek declined to comment further, but Cianfarini offered some insight this week: the marketing group is exploring potential open-space locations in the township that could support signage or advertising.
“We’re trying to put in kiosk areas in public parks so there’s active communication with people using the parks,” which would be paid for by sponsorship dollars, Cianfarini said.
Nowhere on the Active Nework website is there information readily available about the size and scope of what such an installation would look like. Neither did its labyrinthine automated phone system afford direct contact with either a sales or customer support associate.
Attempts to reach Don Schulte, the consultant who presented the initial marketing proposal to the township government, were likewise unsuccessful.
But the park installations are just one piece of the puzzle, according to Cianfarini.
He also reiterated an idea that other forms of advertising could be incorporated within regular township mailings—such as adding home improvement store coupons to quarterly bills—bringing possible sources of new revenue for West Deptford.
“We can put coupons for low-use showerheads, and lower everybody’s water bill,” Cianfarini said. “That’s the kind of things that Home Depot will then pay us for; we’ve got to mail it out anyway.
“Those kinds of things are going to start to offset costs,” he said. “We need an opportunity to do our job at this point.”
Cianfarini also pointed out his belief that the agreement with Active Network will produce “on the back end,” citing a clause that was drafted in the original deal with West Deptford that if “other towns engage with it, we get a percentage of that.”
That arrangement was something Cianfarini was able to include in the deal with Active Network, Cianfarini said in April, because West Deptford is the first town in the state to sign a business agreement with Active Network.
“Once we are given an opportunity for this thing to perform the way it’s expected to, I think the people of West Deptford are going to be really happy with it,” Cianfarini said.
Committeewoman Denice DiCarlo was less enthusiastic about the possibility of adding advertising kiosks to the township parks infrastructure, and questioned whether the existing agreement with Active Network hadn't run its course.
“Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason,” DiCarlo said.
“Why is West Deptford spending the money to try to maneuver around state law for advertising that our residents aren’t 100 percent sold on?”
DiCarlo also pointed out that the idea of advertising kiosks would be a challenge to implement since the township is still working on revising its signage ordinance, a process that has languished for months at the planning board level.
“If any signage or advertising is up, we all agreed it would have to go through the zoning and planning board," DiCarlo said.
She was also skeptical as to whether the agreement would be able to generate any significant revenue, and pointed again to the fact that the township has spent $40,000 on a marketing proposal that, to date, hasn't generated any money.
At the meeting during which DiCarlo decried the lack of specificity in the marketing proposal from Active Network, she pointed out that the company “went on the record as saying...they have never done anything with a municipality of our size other than vending,” adding that West Deptford has never had trouble negotiating vending deals.
“Do we have a system [in the township billing office] that can put a coupon on the bottom of our water bill?” DiCarlo asked. “Why would any one company come in and say they’re going to spend money solely in West Deptford?”
“None of these concepts have been discussed,” she said.
Cianfarini said that the “Active Marketing pieces” of the signage ordinance will be added to the language of the bill “as they come up.
“The way we’re trying to write this signage ordinance is so that any township-sponsored event would be able to have signage,” Cianfarini said. “This would fall under that category.”
Township administrator Eric Campo said he is less concerned about forecasting the success of any individual marketing initiative than with understanding the way it integrates within the whole of a bigger picture.
"I have not seen any proposals as to what that kiosk plan is, how it would work, or how it would drive revenue," Campo said.
"I think I recall that being
bounced around as an idea that Active gave during one of their presentations,
but I have not seen any specifics of that that would lead to the development of
an RFP," he said.
"I have not seen anything in follow-up since the original study was done, and I’m not really sure what the kiosk accomplishes and how that works in the overall plan."
Campo said the marketing arrangement is something that should be coordinated as part of a bigger vision designed to maximize its impact.
He also nodded to the ongoing revision of the township sign ordinance as another consideration in the development of any marketing initiative.
"I don’t think you do this piecemeal," Campo said. "You’ve got a lot of moving parts to this, and I think you have to be mindful of the overall effort and how these little things fit into it.
"The key is we’ve got to have an overall master plan to it where these things work so we don’t have hurdles that come up later on," he said.
"My understanding of how this was going to work is this was going to be a more involved effort with the plan or the township employees. I guess I have not really seen as much involvement in the second phase.
"If it’s still being worked on, I’ll be happy to take a look at it," Campo said.