Worst Louisiana State Agency?

August 20, 2008

Thursday, August 21st, 2008
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


It looked like it was going to be a real horse race. Who would win the title of being the most dysfunctional political body in Louisiana? The final choices were whittled down to three. The mayors of both New Orleans and Mandeville made the final cut. But when all was and done, Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Company won the title of being the most inefficient, corrupt and dysfunctional agency operating in Louisiana state government.

The two mayors in contention, both in the greater New Orleans area, gave it their best shot and made last-minute efforts to show how inept and out of touch both could be. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who seems to create some major blunder monthly, is back in the daily headlines by trying to justify his way out of a rehab housing scandal that involves his brother-in-law. There is plenty of evidence that private companies billed the city of New Orleans for demolition work that they did not actually performed. Nagin brushed off both the criticism and calls for investigations by saying that those who criticize are “hurting the recovery efforts.”He may soon be able to express his protests to a Grand Jury.

And there seems to be a new revelation about Mandeville Mayor Eddie Price as the sun rises each day. Price has been alibiing his DWIs and squandering of city funds for months now. And it’s hard to top his logic of misuse. When auditors raise questions about his using a city credit card to cover the cost of a cruise to Mexico and other personal travel, Price simply said that he is on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week and (I love this part) “takes note of architecture and other things that provide a benefit to the city while he is on vacation.” I’ve been around public life in Louisiana for almost 30 years, and I’ve never heard one like that.

But as disreputable as the antics of both Mayors were, they could not hold a candle to the continuing dysfunction of Louisiana‘s state created property insurance company. Last year, the Baton Rouge Business Report referred to Citizens as the single biggest financial disaster in the state’s history. Since those allegations were made, the scenario at the offices of this state run disaster has only gone from bad to worse.

The board of directors of Citizens was scheduled to approve a 41 % increase a few weeks ago, which was, by the way, the third such increase rubberstamped by the Louisiana Insurance Department since Katrina. The problem was that there was no board of directors to give such approval. There are presently eight vacancies on the board out of 15 members, so the company cannot even get a quorum to meet. The parameters for membership are set by the Louisiana legislature.

But several individuals who were approached for membership flatly turned the board appointment down. They pointed to the continuing scandals at Citizens and the staff’s inability to perform even the most basic financial oversight. As one potential member stated; “The Citizen’s mess is just going to get worse. There has been blatant incompetence in running this state company and I want nothing to do with it.”

Just last week, the Louisiana legislative auditor published evidence that Citizens is two years behind in filing financial audits required by law. Every other private insurance company is required by the Louisiana Department insurance to file both quarterly audited financial statements, and full annual audits. Citizens has been allowed to float without filing the required financial information for the past three years. A private insurance company so mismanaged would have been shut down long ago. Unfortunately, Citizens is the only option for thousands of homeowners in South Louisiana. But just as unfortunately, they are buying a pig in a poke with continually rising rates from a troubled company that has massive internal financial problems.

The final coup de grace that assured Citizens of becoming the state’s most dysfunctional public body was the public disinterest on the part of the company’s management in pursuing past wrongdoing. A federal class-action lawsuit had been filed some months ago alleging racketeering, money laundering and both wire and mail fraud on the part of board members and former executives. The judge in the case indicated that private individuals did not have standing to bring the lawsuit. The obligation would fall on those running the company.

But instead of directing their attorneys to bring legal action against those who have created massive losses in the past, the present chief executive for Citizens dismissed any corrective action simply by saying “we want to put this behind us and do something more productive.” Apparently, holding accountable those who allowed major mismanagement and unlawful spending was not something that would be “productive” for Citizens. A company moves on, and the policy holders are the losers.

So after tallying up all the scores, the race was really not that close. For the third year in a row, Citizens Property Insurance Company continues to hold the title of the state’s most dysfunctional publicly run body. And in a place like Louisiana, there is always a lot of competition for such recognition. Way to go guys.


Once a man holds public office he is absolutely no good for honest work.

Will Rogers

Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s column appears weekly, and is published on a number of newspapers and websites throughout Louisiana. You can read past columns by going to Jim’s website at www.jimbrownla.com. Jim’s regular radio show on WRNO, 995fm out of New Orleans can be heard each Sunday from 11:00 am till 1:00 pm.

OUTDOOR: Poster power grabs piece of the interaction.

Marketing Week May 19, 2011 Six experts discuss digital innovation and other hot topics that are likely to have a significant impact on the future of out of home media. By David Burrows Marketing Week (MW): What’s the current landscape for outdoor media, and how are you using it?

Mark Holdsworth (MH): Outdoor plays really different roles across the Bacardi-Martini portfolio. Most recently, it has been instrumental in our first significant awareness-drive for Grey Goose vodka. Last autumn, we took over Bond Street Underground station and most of the Tube network with an array of print and digital work, which resulted in the brand experiencing double-digit growth.

Zandra Ives (ZI): The campaigns that Yell has been running over the last nine months have been to demonstrate that it is a modern brand. The brief to [our agency] PHD was to select outdoor media to provide considerable coverage, impact and stature, as well as media that allowed us to demonstrate our modernity. We ran on 48-sheets nationally including backlit 48-sheets for impact in key areas. These were complemented by seven mega banner sites that were chosen to provide nationwide coverage.

Paul Evans (PE): Out of home media has been most useful in relation to the launch of our core gaming titles, such as the Westfield mural activity for the game Halo Reach. It tends to be used as a point of gravity in these kinds of plans and campaigns, offering epic scale, a canvas for creativity and innovation and a focal point for the whole campaign.

Oliver Doerle (OD): Our Census campaign is perhaps unique because it had to talk to and motivate every household in England and Wales to complete and return their questionnaires. The backbone of the 10-week campaign was delivered by TV and heavyweight outdoor activity. The natural slant of outdoor towards areas of high population density worked well, as these were the areas where the most challenging audiences for the census were located.

Mike Baker (MB): There are now 140 ‘million-pound spenders’ in terms of the brands using outdoor. The big spenders in the first quarter are the media (including Sky), telecoms (T-Mobile, Nokia), Food (Kellogg), entertainment (Universal, Paramount Pictures) fast food restaurants (McDonald’s, KFC) and banks (NatWest, Lloyds TSB). What helps this broad appeal is that the outdoor audience is young, affluent, typically in full-time employment and has a high disposable income – in other words, a model target audience for many advertisers.

Annabel Venner (AV): Hiscox uses cross tracks at key train stations in south-east England that over-represent against affluent postcodes, key London stations for destination impact and footfall and regional airports, underground and regional railway stations in areas that had high levels of potential customers. see here google gravity download

MW: Have you been able to use any new technology or information to maximise impact?

OD: Digital outdoor, with creative from Bray Leino and buying from MediaCom, was a great way to target areas of low response to the census with hard-hitting messaging focusing on the fine that people who didn’t respond could face. The flexibility to buy this short-term meant that, unlike traditional paper outdoor, the medium could be used at short notice in areas of lower response as levels of reply were tracked. The media costs were offset by the tight targeting and a qualitative assessment of the impact that the animated creative would have.

AV: We’ve used different paid online search bid management strategies to search around the sectors and post towns selected. We have recently used digital panels and transvision sites, and at the end of 2010 teamed up with JiWire to run a location-based campaign, part of which was around our key outdoor sites.

ZI: We used agencies Rapier and Grand Visual to develop interactive six- sheets at bus shelters and JC Decaux transvision digital screens at rail stations. The campaign was localised and ran in real time, and syndicated content from Yell with the destination of the next departing train. For example, if the next train was to Southend-on-Sea at lunchtime, the copy would have been “Heading to Southend-on-Sea? Try Southchurch Park Cafe 01702 603486″, followed by a customer review and the strapline: ‘Yell.com for reviews wherever you’re heading’.

MB: Near-field communications, augmented reality, QR codes, Google Goggles, Wi-Fi, geo-targeting and temperature-triggered campaigns are all being used – but it’s hard to say which are most effective. Simple SMS and Bluetooth have their place too. A Royal Marine Commando recruitment drive in cinema foyers while Quantum of Solace was on generated 87,000 downloads. We are seeing outdoor interfacing with social media and the mobile web, too.

MW: How do you measure the effectiveness of this medium? For example, what kind of effect does outdoor have on driving people in-store?

PE: That’s the million-dollar question. We aspire to “measure what can be measured” and against the communication task that we have set for that channel and execution. The Westfield mural for Xbox served tactical objectives – driving week one sales at Westfield itself, where we exceeded targets, as well as more holistic campaign objectives of awareness and persuasion, through social impressions and video views of the making of the mural. This activity shows how outdoor doesn’t always have to be used in the traditional sense. go to web site google gravity download

MH: Measurement of both the value in the market and its effectiveness still feels like it needs addressing as I strongly believe both are underestimated – a better valuation would give advertisers more confidence in all data emanating from the out of home channel, including its effectiveness. Bacardi-Martini is fortunate to have real data from bars and gastro pubs, which help us establish our campaigns’ payback in addition to the increases in brand health we seek and track.

AV: We measure performance via our brand tracking studies and other research. Our rail campaign, for example, increased brand awareness and consideration among rail users. We also measure new business and existing customer penetration in key geographic regions so we can track the impact of any focused outdoor campaigns. Like any other form of advertising, it’s worth spending the time on research.

MW: How do you make sure outdoor is integrated into your campaigns?

PE: Simple ideas grounded on channels that are relevant and motivating to our audiences come first. Get this right up front, and the rest is relatively easy. Thousands of fans posted their reactions to the Westfield murals on Twitter and Facebook, adding a crucial peer-to-peer dimension. Over 1 million people saw them, and thousands of others viewed the virally seeded video. Traffic to our website increased dramatically, and the mural video was the most clicked part of the Halo Reach landing page.

AV: Outdoor supports our ‘always on’ communication strategy. The sites we advertise on are based on our customer database insights, as opposed to buying off-the-shelf premium packs. Many of these customers may also receive direct mail from us and the creative that we use across all media has one look and feel.

OD: Integration was critical to ensure that the three phases of the Census campaign were seen by the right people at the right time, while the messaging remained consistent. Crucially, MediaCom negotiated bespoke copy change dates as we had different messaging at different times, mirroring the key campaign dates – the distribution of 26 million questionnaires, the go-live date of the online site and customer service centre and the on-the-ground census operations team’s activities to chase up households that hadn’t responded.

MW: How do you see the outdoor sector developing in the next few months? What are the challenges and opportunities?

MH: The expansion of digital offerings will accelerate, allowing creative executions more opportunity to integrate with other media and a chance to be seen at a higher frequency among those audiences that are out and about regularly.

ZI: The main challenge will be ironing out technical issues associated with building a bespoke solution, and the lead times involved. This is an exciting time though, with companies pushing the technological boundaries. Creating advertising that allows consumers to interact with Yell in real time is a thrilling prospect. These new formats allow us to create bespoke solutions suited to our brand, products, consumer location and time of day. These will allow for more accurate reporting than traditional outdoor formats. Yell has already seen some great results from interactive formats that allow consumers to access our content. OD: The use of technology like QR codes and augmented reality that can be harnessed through digital and mobile is an exciting possibility. Digital out of home is now a key revenue driver – it broke the #100m barrier for the first time in 2010 and the rise is set to continue with more panels being converted to digital units, especially in main rail environments and shopping malls.

MB: Digital continues to grow and expand to new areas, including Gatwick Airport, Birmingham city centre, Glasgow Subway and Canary Wharf.

People say there is still no national scale, but that’s not quite right – there are whole national networks using garage forecourts and ATM networks, as well as large sites in main rail stations. In the first quarter of this year, digital made up 12% of all outdoor revenue – a figure that is rising steadily.

The Panel Mike Baker (MB) Chief executive Outdoor Media Centre Oliver Doerle (OD) Head of marketing Census 2011, Office for National Statistics Paul Evans (PE) Head of media Xbox EMEA Mark Holdsworth (MH) Marketing controller Bacardi-Martini Zandra Ives (ZI) Head of advertising and promotions Yell Annabel Venner (AV) Marketing director, Hiscox UK & Ireland


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