The Brandon Agency, a public relations and advertising firm, is one of the biggest local recipients of public money meant for tourism promotion, according to third quarter reports on spending.
Reports released by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce detailing expenditures of public money from July through September show that the organization spent nearly $6.4 million in funds collected from sales and accommodations taxes in Myrtle Beach and Horry County. The Brandon Agency, which was founded in Myrtle Beach and is a member organization of the chamber, received just over $280,000 of those expenditures for radio, print, billboard, TV and online advertising.
Tyler Easterling, the president and chief operating officer of the company, could not be reached by phone or email Monday evening.
The group did not receive the highest total payout, however. Television ad buys propelled Corinthian Media Inc., an ad-buying company based in New York City, to receive over $1.5 million.
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Chamber spokesman Keith Pierce was contacted by email Monday but said he was unable to answer a list of questions sent to him in time for publication.
The Sun News asked whether the chamber uses a bidding process as it spends tax funds, whether there were any unspent tourism sales tax or accommodations tax funds this quarter, where television ad buys were focused and other questions about specific line items in the reports.
The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce receives a portion of the “tourism development fee,” a 1 percent sales tax levied on most purchases in Myrtle Beach, in addition to a portion of A-taxes, collected on visitors’ hotel and rental bills in both Myrtle Beach and Horry County. The 1 percent sales tax also helps fund property tax rollbacks for property owners who are permanent residents of Myrtle Beach. It must be used for out-of-market advertising and promotion, under state law, and A-tax receipts must be used “only for advertising and promotion of tourism to develop and increase tourist attendance through the generation of publicity,” according to South Carolina code.
The chamber’s reports, issued quarterly, list a “Marketing Investment” and “Description” next to expenditures. For example, one allocation of tourism sales tax funds listed “$120,397.57” with a marketing investment of “TV Advertising” and the description as “Corinthian Media, Inc.” The reports do not list dates next to expenditures.
However, some sections of the report are unclear as to whether the description listed is the service the chamber paid for or the company that received the payment. For example, 42 entries on reports of Myrtle Beach tourism tax and A-tax expenditures list “Internet Advertising” as the marketing investment, but do not list an identifiable company under the entry’s description, instead listing “Search Marketing,” “Display Advertising,” “Video Advertising,” “Email Marketing,” “Social Media Markeitng,” (sic) “Mobile Marketing” or “Other.”
Together, those 42 entries add up to more than $2.9 million.