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Chris Jones

This Campaign Means Business, Convention Authority's Less Famous Ads Lure Work Events

22 December 2003

It's been overshadowed by a younger, flashier and more-expensive sister program, but proponents of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's pro-business advertising campaign say they too have been extremely effective in luring more visitors to Southern Nevada.

Throughout 2003, the city's $58 million leisure marketing campaign has made headlines -- both good and bad -- thanks in large part to the public's strong response to its "What happens here, stays here" tag line.

With much less fanfare, a separate $7.5 million business development campaign has also played an important part in bringing in new conventions, trade shows and meetings that support the city's tourism-based economy, convention authority sources said Friday.

"Getting meetings here requires our most-intensive efforts in terms of our sales approach," said Terry Jicinsky, senior vice president of marketing for the convention authority. "And most of our success over the last five years has come on the corporate side."

In fiscal 2003-04, the convention authority plans to spend about $1.5 million on business-related advertising buys. In addition, 17 of its 24 marketing/sales professionals will spend another $6 million making sales pitches, hosting client events or arranging other one-on-one efforts to promote Las Vegas as a business venue, Jicinsky said.

Such efforts in recent years seem to be paying off, according to visitor statistics that demonstrate how business travel has become a much more important component in the local economy.

In 1982, for example, conventioneers accounted for only 7 percent of the city's total visitors. A decade later, business travelers still made up slightly less than 9 percent of Las Vegas' overall total.

Last year, however, more than 5.1 million people -- or nearly 15 percent of the city's roughly 35 million visitor total -- came here to attend a convention, trade show or corporate meeting. And through October, nearly 17 percent of this year's local visitors came for business-related purposes.

More growth is likely on the way, said Rossi Ralenkotter, executive vice president for the convention authority.

"The booking pace through 2006 is ahead of where it is currently," Ralenkotter said. "With 622,000 square feet of new conference space being built right now, that's predicated on the demand (hotel executives) are seeing looking ahead.

"The number of groups coming in continues to increase."

Capturing a large share of the business market is important to Las Vegas for several reasons, both men said. Conventions fill hotels during the midweek periods that are typically devoid of vacationers, and business travelers often stay in town longer and pay for more hotel room nights than leisure visitors, who tend to share rooms with friends or family.

In addition, the city's entertainment elements also encourage many conventioneers to bring along their spouse or children, spending added dollars before, during or after a business event, Jicinsky said.

Randy Snow, vice president and creative director for Las Vegas-based advertising agency R&R Partners, which developed the convention authority's leisure and business ad campaigns, said the most pressing aspect of continuing that progress is educating meeting planners that work is taken seriously in Las Vegas.

Beyond that, Snow said a secondary challenge is ensuring that the right message gets to the right target within the business realm.

"Until you get into this, you don't realize what a complex and stratified area this all is," said Snow, who's done business ads at R&R for more than a decade. "You do meeting ads for corporate meetings; meeting ads for trade show producers; ads for meeting planners and the people they work for: presidents, CFO's, boards and people like that.

"The messages are very specific to the audience."

For example, some print ads encourage high-level executives to direct their company's meeting planners to stage events in Las Vegas. Those in need of hands-on assistance, however, are targeted with ads that claim the city's is loaded with people "who actually work in this town. And we know all of them."

A third avenue aims for incentive travelers. It features photos of people enjoying the city's shopping and gaming attractions coupled with phrases such as, "Believe it or not, this can be the result of hard work."

Each of the ads is backed by the brand line "We work as hard as we play," and includes a logo that is more businesslike than the "Only Vegas" graphics used for leisure ads.

Their placement ranges from trade publications and industry journals like Tradeshow Week to executive-friendly magazines such as Fortune.

"We want to re-enforce that message, that we are a serious business destination and people will come to your show here," Snow said. "The hope is the (business) ads will work together with our leisure ads."

Friday's comments came in response to a Wednesday event at the Governor's Conference on Tourism at Caesars Palace, where a panel of trade show experts trashed the city's leisure marketing campaign, dubbed "Vegas Stories." The experts claimed its message may be too risqué for many business travelers and could cause some convention planners to avoid staging events in Las Vegas.