Is Student Council spending our money over at MVA?

By Mabel Doge Luhan

[Editor’s note: I failed to publish Ms. Luhan’s article Friday, when it should have published.]

Happy Friday! A day off for the intrepid reporters at the Marianas Variety — as if they didn’t already have enough days off. It’s great to see the Variety transforming into what must be its future form: a venue for press releases, legal announcements, and advertorials. Maybe next, they can have Mondays off too?

The Variety’s comfortably accelerating tailspin reminds me of when I had a late lunch with Francois Duvalier at Les Cocottes for Dessalines Day. Dear Papa Doc, gesturing wildly with his glass of Chateau Montus, told me about the best way to boil a frog!

Speaking of things that croak, in a Variety press release (“MVA conducts media blitz across Korea”), MVA is loudly boasting about having bought ads in Korea. I haven’t seen the CNMI government so proud of spending money since we BOOSTed a Chinese horse house! MVA somehow tries to spin this spending as an accomplishment.

How much money was spent? How many medical referrals, police salaries, or road repairs could have been accomplished with that money? The MVA leaves out that part. Who cares how much it cost — they’re spending our money, not theirs. (Forgive me, Janet Jackson, for now I sound like Zaldy!)

Hilariously, they claim an 18% “conversion rate” for the ads. A conversion rate is the fraction of ad viewers who take the ad’s desired action. Does that mean that 18% of viewers of these ads bought tickets to Saipan? No. It means that 18% of viewers of these ads entered the MVA’s sweepstakes for a free vacation to Saipan! Where we can spend more government money on airlines and hotels to pay people to come here. Excellent! We’ve already set an excellent precedent of spending public money to advertise giveaways of public money.

MVA says their goal is to “increase airline ticket sales and load factors.” Really? Since when is that the purpose of the CNMI government? The Korean airlines must be having a good laugh: here we are, spending our government money to help them improve ticket sales and load factors! Meanwhile, of course, our own public facilities are in shambles.

The MVA’s press release doesn’t address any of the actually important things. The Variety of course doesn’t ask these things either — they just churn out the propaganda, like the Pyongyang Daily, or the Saipan Chinese News.

How much money was spent on this ad campaign? Was a “blitz” — implying a large, high-profile, multi-platform expensive ad buy — really the best strategy? How much money are we giving away in this sweepstakes? How was the ad agency chosen? If the agency isn’t Chiel (by far the best agency in Korea), why isn’t it? Was there a bidding process for the ad agency? How many MVA staffers traveled to Korea to sign the ad contract at how much public cost, and how much were they wined and dined by the ad agency? And so on.

By the way, even for sweepstakes entry, an 18% conversion rate is unheard of — has this been audited? Usually billboard advertisers dream of a 1% conversion rate, and something like 0.1% is more common. MVA is claiming that 18% of people who saw this billboard signed up for the sweepstakes? That would make it most likely the most successful advertising campaign in human history. What’s more worrying is that MVA doesn’t seem to realize how out-of-the-ordinary an 18%  conversion rate is, which also means they don’t know much about advertising. And yet we give them millions of dollars to advertise the Marianas.

Concepts like budgets and ad agencies fly over Manabat’s dunce cap, but couldn’t Andrew Roberto do a piece challenging this kind of spending? Or is he prohibited from harming the Variety’s “good relationship” with the MVA? Maybe we’re courting the wrong Korea!

Speaking of Dunce Cap, what happened with those flights from Hong Kong Airlines? How much public money was spent pursuing those flights?

Good job spending our money, MVA. I hope you enjoyed the kalbi.


Mabel Doge Luhan is a woman of loose morals. She resides in Kagman V, where she pursues her passions of crocheting, beatboxing, and falconry.

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