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If you ‘ad’ it up, New Jersey appears to be coming up short New York’s new business offerings are all over the airwaves

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If you've turned on your television in New Jersey at any point in the last year, you've more than likely seen the commercial.

Set to the background music of Jay Z and Alicia Keys' “Empire State of Mind,” the iconic voice of Robert De Niro — yes, that Robert De Niro — rushes in to tell you that New York, the once booming hub for innovation that fell on hard times, is back and better than ever.

Especially when it comes to doing business.

“Today, there's a new New York state,” De Niro proclaims in the ad. “One that's working to attract businesses and create jobs. A place where innovation meets determination and businesses lead the world.”

It's all part of a highly visible marketing strategy developed by Empire State Development, New York's economic development agency, which is working hard to promote the state as a prime destination for businesses.

Now, with a whole new slate of incentives available right here under the recently passed Economic Opportunity Act, can we expect to see commercials for the “new New Jersey?”

Not just yet, said Tim Lizura, president of the state's Economic Development Authority.

Lizura said that Choose New Jersey, which serves as the primary vehicle for marketing the state to the business community, may have a future media plan in the works. But for now, its approach has been more targeted — and so far successful.

“I think there are a lot of things going on,” Lizura said. “It isn't always mass media, but we're certainly happy with the amount of interest we're seeing.”

So rather than having, say, Joe Pesci (a Jersey native) get on the television and explain the merits of the state's new business attraction and retention offerings to a wider audience, the EDA is instead choosing to market straight to the source: the business community.

That includes giving presentations, attending conferences and placing ads in regional publications.

“You have to do these things when it's right and targeted at the right markets,” Lizura said.

With the Super Bowl coming to town this week, Choose New Jersey has launched a digital billboard campaign along high-traffic roadways in the days leading up to and after the big game, in hopes of drawing the attention of out-of-town corporate executives.

The targeted approach has been working thus far, says Lizura. A prime example, he said, was the news earlier this month that Forbes Media would be moving its headquarters — and 350 jobs — from New York City to Jersey City.

It's those types of high-profile moves that serve to strengthen the state's standing with the business community — not glitzy commercials, he said.

“I think that kind of credibility is more important than any kind of ad-based buy,” Lizura said.

Michael Egenton, senior vice president of government relations for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said that while he supports what the EDA and Choose New Jersey are doing, the responsibility of promoting the state's new business offerings doesn't fall solely on their shoulders.

“Everyone's got to play a role in helping to promote those incentives and get that word out beyond the state's borders,” Egenton said.

Spreading awareness is not always an easy task, and that's why the New York commercials, though maybe a bit over the top for his liking, are effective, he said.

“I wouldn't want to see us spend all our money on a media blitz, but I think it helps,” he said.

Egenton said that while he's confident in what New Jersey now offers, it's only good business practice to “keep a watchful eye” on what New York is up to.

“Obviously, you've got to pay attention to what your competitors are doing,” he said.

E-mail to: andrewg@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @andrgeorge

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