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The holiday season is under way in El Dorado and so is a promotional campaign that encourages residents in the city and Union County and visitors in surrounding areas to check off their Christmas gift lists by patronizing local businesses.

The latest edition of the El Dorado Insider, which was distributed last week, focuses on the Hometown Holidays’ theme in conjunction with the overarching promotional campaign for a slate of downtown, holiday activities that kicked off Thursday with the Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony and will continue over the next few weeks.

The activities are presented by Main Street El Dorado and the Downtown Business Association in a partnership with Murphy USA.

While speaking with the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission earlier this month, Don Hale, president and founder of the Diamond Agency, the commission’s ad agency of record, said the fourth-quarter edition of the Insider features home decorating and Christmas traditions, food and holiday events, with an emphasis on retail shopping.

The Diamond Agency publishes the quarterly magazine and the A&P commission provides funding to help cover publishing and distribution costs.

Hale acknowledged that travel has been slowed this year by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and is expected to remain sluggish, at least through the first quarter of 2021.

Consequently, distribution of the 2020 holiday edition of the Insider was concentrated within a narrower radius outside El Dorado.

“It’s not that we’re not inviting here but the majority that we typically mail outside the area, we focused on a 30-mile radius around El Dorado to promote the holiday guide,” Hale said.

The guide includes a six-page section profiling 12 downtown merchants to showcase the merchants, their businesses and the variety of gifts and gift ideas that are available to shoppers in El Dorado.

The section was supported by the Downtown Business Association, Hale said, adding that he believes local retailers are the backbone of the small business community in El Dorado and the magazine spread helps readers “put a face with the business they’re supporting.”

Radio, TV, billboard and direct mail ads will run concurrently with other elements of the holiday campaign, as well as materials that explain the economic impact of shopping locally, he said.

Hale said many of the promotional components of the holiday campaign were used during the El Dorado Food Festival, which ran Sept. 1 - Oct. 31 to support local restaurants who, like other businesses, were adversely affected by COVID-19.

The non-traditional festival was coordinated with a series of activities, including dedicating the fall 2020 issue of the Insider to local eateries and the variety of food that is available in El Dorado; coupon booklets that offered $380,000 worth of discounts from local restaurants; radio and digital billboard advertising; a $500 grand prize to a diner who used at least one of the coupons, completed the entry form on the back of the coupons and left them inside collection boxes that were set up at participating restaurants; and Murphy USA gas cards, valued at $50, were given away each week to a winner who dined at a local restaurant and posted to Instagram and Facebook a photo of the food and/or themselves and identified the restaurant where they dined in or purchased takeout meals.

Hale told A&P commissioners that several restaurants reported an increase in traffic and have asked that the festival continue in 2021.

Expenses for the holiday campaign are being covered by funding that was allotted to the Diamond Agency/advertising line item in the 2020 A&P budget and the ad agency did not need to request additional funding, Hale said.

“I think we’ll see an impact on the retail side, the same way we saw in the restaurants,” he said.

To help out local hotels and motels, who have also faced hardships because of COVID-19, Hale the Diamond Agency is working with lodging establishments to develop a lodging brochure and update the El Dorado Visitors’ INFO guide, a reference guide that highlights overnight accommodations, dining experiences, local festivals, live concerts and more.

The booklet launched in 2018 and last week, Hale said he previously met with local hotel owner and A&P Commissioner Sanjay Patel about creating a lodging brochure and updating the INFO guide.

“He referenced the INFO guide … and said that was possibly one of the best things that had helped the hotel industry and he asked us to re-look at the way that publication played out,” Hale said.

The Diamond Agency plans to present a new layout of the publication during the first quarter of 2021, he added. The INFO guide is also available on the city’s Go El Dorado website.

Outdoor amenities in south Arkansas will also be highlighted in the 2021 Arkansas Travel Guide, which is published by the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism and set for distribution in late December, Hale reported.

“Come Play on Our Backyard” is the message in a full-page ad that will feature downtown El Dorado — including Oil Heritage Park —, Mystic Creek Golf Course and Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge.

“If you notice, there’s no people in there,” Hale said in reference to a layout of the ad. “… All that you can visit at any time and still be socially distant and enjoy some of the best amenities in Arkansas.”

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