Don't You Worry

The Statesman wants to hold Boise's hand


Boise, the Idaho Statesman is worried about you. So the state's largest daily newspaper is doing its part by taking out ads in its own pages to tell you that things aren't as bad as they seem.

A series of four full-page color advertisements, paid for by the Statesman and using pro bono ad work by local agencies and the input and support from Boise State's president, Bob Kustra, began appearing in the paper Sunday, May 4.

Their message, according to Statesman publisher Mi-Ai Parrish, as told to BW:

"I'm bullish on the Boise Valley."

The Statesman-sponsored ad campaign has prominent placement in the newspaper. The first two addressed the valley's general resilience to the larger economic winds that appear to be blowing foul in the nation. (Even President George Bush declared in a recent news conference that, "There's no question we're in a slowdown.")

But all is not lost, say the ads.

"We have a good economic structure sitting on a strong foundation that will help us weather the storm," the Statesman's recent ad read. The third Statesman ad, "Shining City," will state that the economy is "still strong," that "the unemployment level is low," and note that the Boise Valley "continues to get good press" in lists generated by national magazines. The final ad, "Lemonade," will remind readers that a soft economy means that "there are more and more 'deals' on everything from autos and RV's to homes and furniture ... So if you're considering buying a major item, now might be a good time." Also, that people should buy local and "work down your debt."

Parrish, who moved to Boise from Minnesota in July 2006 to take over the Statesman for McClatchy Newspapers, is smitten with the valley. She likes the people, the schools, the parking places and the businesses, she said. But she was aware that her paper was reporting the less-than-rosy side of Boise's slowing real estate market, shaky major-employer status (hello, Micron) and other economic challenges.

"It's just a neat place, a special place," she said. "I thought, 'You know, we should just say this.'"

So, she approached Bill Drake, from the Drake Cooper ad agency, with her idea. He said at first he was "a bit surprised."

"I said, 'Why don't you get your people to do it?'" he said, wondering why she wouldn't have her editorial board or reporting staff to put together such a statement.

But he quickly got on board, he said, inspired by her enthusiasm, and agreed to work for free. Because he was very busy, however, he tapped the small ad agency The White Space to develop the artwork for the ads. The Dr. Seuss-style illustration of the second ad shows a small farmhouse cringing against an oncoming hurricane.

Parrish acknowledged that for a publisher to take out ads in her own paper to cheer up the populace is "kind of weird."

"I thought, 'You know, we can just tell people that,'" she said. "I do run a newspaper. We have the ability to convey information in a credible, thoughtful way."

Drake said the ad medium better suited her goal.

"They can't make the news anything they want it to be," he said. "But, an ad is a controllable communications device."

"I am a publisher," she said. "I do believe in the power of advertising and marketing."