New Jersey officials say a new round of tourism promotion to be paid out of Superstorm Sandy recovery dollars will replace the "Stronger than the Storm" campaign.
"Stronger than the Storm" advertisements, ubiquitous on television during the spring and summer seasons in 2013, featured businesses and boardwalks recovering from the destruction of Sandy, but caused controversy due to what some called an inaccurate portrayal of the recovery process, and later for revelations about its funding.
The new round of ads will be funded by a $5 million allocation of federal storm recovery money and is part of a plan unveiled Monday by the state that accounts for how the latest round of $1.46 billion in storm relief will be laid out.
While the ads were initially popular, Gov. Chris Christie has faced criticism for awarding the campaign's production contract to a politically-connected advertising firm and starring in the ads himself while he was running for re-election.
The campaign is now being reviewed by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development after Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6) asked for the Republican governor's involvement to be probed by the agency. The initial ad campaign was also funded through federal storm recovery money.
The new $5 million outlay of cash for tourism promotion in 2014 is a far cry from the $25 million spent to produce and air "Stronger than the Storm," which will not be used this year.
"You really have to reset the music," said Marc Ferzan, Executive
Director of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding, noting that a U.S. Department of Commerce report suggested an additional campaign.
"We think, this season, we did well patching up and getting ahead of the curve for the first season," said Ferzan. "We are thinking we’re going to be in much better [condition] this year, but we need to build on the progress that we’ve made."
Aside from the campaign's political implications, some Jersey Shore locals were critical of the initial set of advertisements for promoting the idea that the area had completely recovered, while some neighborhoods were still in tatters.
The details of the campaign will be handled by the state's Economic Development Authority, Ferzan said. Officials from that agency were not immediately available for comment.