FLEMINGTON, NJ – As it seeks to promote its “Explore Flemington” branding campaign for the borough, Flemington Community Partnership will rely extensively on billboards and print media.

The billboard campaign is expected to begin next month. It will use a digital billboard based in Piscataway, and two other billboards that will be used in various random locations, at a cost of $20,400.

The goal is to “reach outside of just the greater Flemington area,” FCP director Judy Goodwin told the FCP board at its meeting Monday.

Sign Up for Flemington/Raritan Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Print ads will also be appearing in publications such as New Jersey Monthly, Edible Jersey, New Jersey Family and newspapers. FCP earmarked $19,400 for those ad buys, which will also include digital advertising on those sites.

Tourism, food and family-oriented marketing will be the focus of the campaign, Goodwin said.

Board member Andy Cohen cast the sole vote against the spending.

“Are we convinced about what we can deliver?” Cohen asked. “We get one chance ... they see a billboard, they come on Sunday, it’s 2 o’clock, it’s not an event. What do they see?”

Cohen wondered what might happen if “we fail to deliver on what in their mind they created” as an expectation.

“The intention is we’re just driving traffic to our website,” Goodwin answered. “The website will be the space in which we are advertising what’s going on.

“I understand the fear that maybe we don’t have enough to offer,” Goodwin added. “But the whole point of our organization is to drive traffic to Flemington. It’s a chicken-or-egg question, right? The businesses don’t come unless the people are here, the people don’t come unless the businesses are here. At a certain point, we have to show off what we do have.”

Cohen suggested that the FCP ask businesses to consider extending their hours during the campaign.

“Part of what we have to do, and we haven’t done for eight years, is promote Flemington, period,” said Jim Gano, an FCP board member who owns Crown Trophy. “There’s been nothing out there to say anything about Flemington other than bad press saying it’s a ghost town, the Union Hotel is a blight on Main Street, and things like that.”

Gano said the campaign is an opportunity “to create awareness, to create a front-line presence to all the people 40 miles out that there’s something going on here: You need to check it out.”

Gano said he’s run into resistance from some business owners about extending their hours, but that businesses need to be open when it’s convenient for customers.

“Whether we can change everyone’s mentality, I don’t know. But we have to start creating that awareness,” Gano said.

Cohen owns Barkley’s Gourmet Marketplace on Main Street and is open on Sundays. He said  he does have customers who visit and who sometimes say about the rest of town, “There’s nothing here” because so many businesses are closed.

The goal of the billboard isn’t to encourage drivers to “explore Flemington, make a U-turn and get out here, as much as it is to create that interest, awareness, do a little research, see our calendar of events” on the FCP website, Gano said.