WEST PALM BEACH — A week after the announcement that Palm Beach Post advertising executive Chuck Gerardi will be leaving by year’s end, sources at the sinking daily are telling Gossip Extra that Gerardi’s department — the newspaper’s life force — is in shambles.
After several changes in the pay structures of advertising representatives, many have seen their paychecks dwindle to less than half what they used to be, and one rep told me it’s no longer worth it for her to go the extra distance to bring in new business.
An increasing number of advertisers are complaining about billing mistakes in which they’re being charged double, triple even, for ads in the newspaper or website.
Started earlier this year, Idea Bar works as a full-fledged advertising and marketing company, and Post honchos hope it’s going to create new revenues at a time when lay offs have been the most reliable way to keep the paper in the black.
Idea Bar can count on as many as 15 employees to offer marketing, digital media services, research, publishing and design advise to local businesses.
“They think it’s a $7 million-a-year idea, but it’s a bizarre concept,” said one ex-employee who requested to remain anonymous. “Their Idea Bar is basically a repository of workers from elsewhere in the company with little, or no, experience in advertising and marketing.”
And the concept is rife with conflicts of interest.
Idea Bar consultants, for example, would be hard-pressed to advise clients to advertise in, say, the Sun-Sentinel or New Times, instead of The Palm Beach Post.
“This could lead to extreme conflicts of interest,” the ex-employee said. “But that was never even discussed.”
Unhappy Marketing Firms
What’s more, the Idea Bar could take business away from West Palm Beach’s established media marketing companies and public relations firms — some of which talked their clients into spending millions in the Post over the years.
The Idea Bar is stocked with former newsroom employees, including ex-features editor Amy Royster and ex-photographer Gwen Berry.
And there are a few with the right connections: Idea Bar Media Coordinator Nicole Moschella is the straight-out-of-college 22-year-old daughter of newsroom boss Nick Moschella!
While business has been scant, the Idea Bar has managed to alienate other Posties with stunts that remind observers of the band that played pretty music while Titanic sank.
“Last week, they actually danced like The Rockettes while singing Beauty and The Beast‘s Be Our Guest in front of the entire advertising department,” one spywitness said. “When you don’t know if you’ll be able to feed your family, you don’t really want to waste time watching morons sing and dance.”
The Idea Bar is also a physical location at the newspaper’s headquarters on South Dixie. It’s an airy third floor room with lime-green furniture where clients are invited to “brainstorm” with Idea Bar personnel.
At one point, there was a plan to spend $17,000 on a real counter, but the counter’s not been installed yet.
How About a Cocktail?
“Believe it or not, they floated the idea of serving liquor,” the informant added. “Can you imagine the liability?”
There was also an estimated $5,000 spent on helicopter photos of employees wearing black suits and white gloves while laying on a beach to spell Idea Bar (see photo above).
One of the projects that the Idea Bar inherited was the organization of Palm Beach Brides, a wedding show at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.
According to internal memos obtained by Gossip Extra, the show made a record $124,000 in revenues last year when it was run by the advertising department.
This year’s edition was run by Idea Bar and made just $94,000, one of its lowest scores ever!
None of the three Post higher-ups contacted for comment about the venture replied to emails.