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Media accuses IID of not spending enough on power aid campaign

January 11, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Local media members told the Imperial Irrigation District board this week the district isn't getting the message to Imperial Valley residents that there is a public benefits program to help with power bills.

Members of the local media, including Felix Mesa, owner of the El Sol Del Valle Spanish-language newspaper, and representatives from two area radio stations said the district has not waged enough of an advertising campaign.

They voiced anger that Kiner/Goodsell Advertising of Palm Desert, the firm contracted by IID to do an ad campaign for the public benefits program, had either not contacted them or bought limited advertising.

Kiner/Goodsell is expected to receive $170,000 from IID for its services.

Mesa told the board El Sol Del Valle is the only Spanish-language newspaper in the Imperial Valley, and as such, he reaches a segment of the Valley population not served by other media.

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He said when other agencies want to get out a message they purchase at least half-page ads. He said IID purchased a much smaller ad regarding the public benefits program.

Mesa said Kiner/Goodsell has not done enough of a market study in the Imperial Valley to determine how to get across the message.

Cecilia Maldonado-Fontaine, general manager of KQVO-FM and KICO-AM in Calexico, echoed Mesa's sentiments.

She told the board she had not been contacted by Kiner/Goodsell, adding there are a lot of people who listen to the radio stations she represents.

Steve Stodelle, former owner and manager of KSIQ-FM in Brawley, told the board the station was never contacted by the advertising firm. Stodelle left the station Dec. 31.

Both Maldonado-Fontaine and Stodelle questioned why they were overlooked if IID is trying to make the public aware it has money to aid the public.

Ron Hull, IID's public affairs manager, said the advertising firm has a budget to place ads in newspapers and is running the same size ads in all newspapers. He added the frequency of the ads is equal in the newspapers.

Scott Kiner, president of Kiner/Goodsell, said this morning of the campaign, "It has been a huge success, in particular in the Imperial Valley. We have gotten an outstanding response rate for people signing up for the program in Imperial County."

Kiner said his agency has a strong print campaign going in the Valley, utilizing local newspapers, inserts in power bills and flyers.

Kiner said his agency found television is another effective way to reach the Imperial Valley public. He said the agency has placed ads with the local Univision affiliate.

Kiner said his agency tries to utilize as much media as possible, but it cannot divide advertising funds equally. Part of the effort is to determine the best ways to get across the message.

IID has nearly $5 million that can be spent on assisting the public with power costs.

The district has created programs and is still developing others meant to tap into that funding and provide assistance to the public, particularly to those who might not be able to afford power bills.

As part of one such program IID is offering up to a 25-percent discount on power bills to those who earn no more than $12,000 a year; the district offers a 20-percent discount to those who earn no more than $18,000.

In addition, there is an emergency assistance program to help those who have immediate power bill needs.

IID offers a home weatherization program, a rebate program for having air conditioners serviced and a program to help people purchase energy-efficient refrigerators.

The funding for such programs comes from a public benefits charge of 2.85 percent on each power bill.

Following the presentation by the local media, the IID board directed its staff to look into ways to increase local advertising. They said there is money to be spent and word has to get out to the public.

Board members said the situation is even more critical because people are going to see power bills rise as early as February because of higher costs to provide energy.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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