A seven-page advertising spread designed to promote Florida in a popular travel magazine was filled with factual errors, leaving some communities less than pleased with the agency that created the campaign.
Visit Florida, a taxpayer funded operation, bought the promotion published in Coastal Living magazine. It features ads and photographs of Florida's numerous destinations, along with some text describing them.
In the text, it described Clearwater and St. Petersburg as being on the "east" coast of the state, and mentions the Weeki Wachee mermaids being in Ocala in Marion County, both of which are obviously wrong.
"I was disappointed that the facts seemed inaccurate," said Maria Lowe, mayor of St. Pete Beach. Lowe said coastal cities that are driven by tourism rely on Visit Florida to use taxpayer dollars to promote their interests.
"Those ads are critical for bringing tourists to our fine beaches," Lowe said. "We count on the state to use the tax in the best way to represent our area."
Lowe said she would much rather have the tax dollars go to a local advertising firm that has a better grasp on the marketing needs of the community.
Visit Florida said it had many advertising campaigns but that it was not aware of the factual errors at the time the article was published.
Several visitors to St. Pete Beach said it was surprising that the state's tourism agency could mess up which coast is which.
"It's pretty clear geographically," said Danielle Rottenberg, who lived in Florida for 15 years before moving out of state.
However, not every beach goer was as informed.
Jeremy Neely of Indiana was asked what coast he was walking on.
"Atlantic. No, Pacific," he said, quickly laughing after he realized he was wrong on both accounts.
"That was never my best subject," he said.