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$16-Million Plan Aims to Aid L.B. Image : Marketing: From cosmetic touch-ups to a new vocabulary, a communications group proposes ways to make Iowa by the Sea an 'international city.'

November 04, 1990|SHAWN DOHERTY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONG BEACH — What can you do with unsightly oil derricks off the Long Beach Freeway?

Hide them behind redwood pillars.

If the word downtown conjures up images of crime, change what you call that district to village.

And if blaring horns and sirens get on people's nerves, put up a wind chime.

These ideas are part of an ambitious campaign to spruce up the city's tired image.

Howard Wallman, executive vice president for Vogel Communications Group, the firm hired for the job, proposes to transform the city once called Iowa by the Sea into what he terms an "international city," full of exciting things to do.

If approved, the job will cost the city up to $16 million and take two to four years, consultants told city officials and businessmen last week.

After all, figuring out how to sell Long Beach is no easy job.

"We've been trying, trying, trying," said Joe Prevratil, president of Leisure Horizons Inc. and consultant to the Long Beach Convention Center expansion project.

"It should come as no surprise that Long Beach has either a negative image or no image out there," he said.

So now cities like Long Beach are turning for help to the so-called image doctors who created such hot sellers as the "I Love New York" campaign a decade ago.

"I'm conducting (the research) the same way I conduct it for potato chips and political candidates," Wallman said.

He suggests packaging Long Beach this way: "A city located on the ocean in Southern California that is striving to provide the things that people value in a place where they live, work and play."

A proposed two-page newspaper ad illustrating that vision included drawings of a tennis player, a trolley car, a yacht, a ballet dancer, a cello, the shoreline, a Little League team, a briefcase and a morsel of sushi.

Little mention was made of how the proposed development of a Disney theme park in Long Beach would affect this image, however.

Plenty of mention was made of what Wallman called the city's "cultural diversity." But virtually all of the people pictured are Anglos, though nearly half of the city is now composed of minorities.

In one proposed ad, flags from various nations hang from a clothesline--a representation of the city's mix of international and "homespun" flavors, Wallman said.

Listeners were told to emphasize the city's good side and to downplay its bad. Businessmen were told not to use such words as urban and downtown , because the agency said they bring to mind urban and downtown problems.

Cosmetic projects to cover up ugly spots were proposed. Wallman called them "site enhancements."

Wallman showed a slide of one of the city's run-down apartment buildings. "That looks unsafe," he said.

Then he showed another slide of the same building, hidden by what he called a "barrier." Painted on the wall were waves. "They remind us of the ocean," he said, "a safe place."

The city needs to post welcome signs along its highways, hang banners from its light posts and run information kiosks, he said.

Long Beach should also paint logos in Blue Line stations, so when passengers get off the train, Wallman said, they have "arrived somewhere very interesting. This is a place where something's happening."

He also suggested building a wind-chime sculpture. "Not only will you see you're in a very choice place, but you begin to hear something too," he said.

A few businessmen at last week's presentation worried that the campaign is too whimsical. Another asked how paint and advertising jingles can help resolve bigger problems, such as crime and graffiti.

"We're not trying to solve through the campaign the great social ills that exist," replied Prevratil, the Convention Center consultant.

But most of the assembled crowd praised the proposed campaign. "It's beautiful," one businessman said.

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