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Benjamin Spillman

Las Vegas promoters patent new catchphrase

22 June 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- "What happens here, stays here" could be getting another sidekick.

Las Vegas tourism boosters have applied for a trademark on the phrase "Your Vegas is showing" as a slogan to promote Southern Nevada as a tourist destination.

If the phrase sticks in the minds of focus group members and survey responders, it could wind up in print ads and on television as early as the fall, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

If it doesn't, it will wind up on the cutting room floor and leave copywriters to scribble out more new ideas to burn the bright lights of Las Vegas in the minds of potential visitors around the globe.

"It implies that you are living outside of your everyday life," Terry Jicinsky, the authority's senior vice president of marketing, said of the "Your Vegas" slogan. "There is an implication it says something about you as an individual."

Jicinsky said "Your Vegas" won't replace "What happens here, stays here." That campaign is the most recognized slogan in the authority's 52-year history, Jicinsky said.

Instead, it could join one of several slogans used for narrower target audiences as opposed to the general audience of "What happens here, stays here," he said.

So far, the authority has spent $131 million marketing the "What happens here, stays here," slogan.

Some of the authority's other narrower slogans include "Not business as usual," aimed at meeting planners; "Overtime guaranteed," to promote special events; and "A world of entertainment," for international audiences.

Creating the slogans that define Las Vegas is a big-money business and, according to marketers who get paid to sell Sin City, critical to maintaining occupancy rates around 90 percent in Southern Nevada hotels. The cost to produce one 30-second television spot is about $400,000 to $500,000.

The advertising firm R&R Partners directs the creative process that generates Las Vegas slogans. Two of the company's copywriters are credited with creating "What happens here, stays here," which first appeared in 2003. Currently, the authority has an $85 million annual advertising budget it spends through R&R.

The slogan is credited with helping Las Vegas become the second-most recognized brand in America after Google in one survey. But it has also generated controversy.

In 2003, meeting planners at a conference in Las Vegas lashed out at the implications of the slogan, saying it undermined efforts to market Sin City as a business destination.

And in 2005, the authority itself came under fire when it was revealed R&R had bought the slogan from the authority for $1. The authority said that as a private firm, R&R was in a better position to defend the trademark than the publicly-operated authority.

The incident cost the authority $320,837 in legal fees to review internal policies, and R&R returned the slogan.

Defending the trademark also has been costly. Six cases, including one in which the authority is a defendant, have cost the agency $732,123 in legal fees.

In April, however, a judge ordered one defendant accused of wrongly violating the trademark to repay the authority $114,000. Authority spokesman Vince Alberta said money used aggressively defending trademarks is well-spent because it protects the integrity of the slogans.

"We have won that case," he said of the latest lawsuit against a California woman. "Everyone seems to forget that."