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Chris Jones

TV Spots that Happen Here Will Stay Here

12 November 2003

LAS VEGAS -- Like 'em or not, more "Vegas Stories" ads are on the way.

In the 10 months since the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's popular but controversial advertising campaign first aired on television stations in the United States and Canada, the "What happens here, stays here" spots have generated a maelstrom of attention -- both positive and negative -- for the city's tourism industry.

The National Football League's refusal to air the ads during last January's Super Bowl broadcast was only the beginning. Since then, some viewers have blasted the spots for promoting what they believe is an unflattering image of the city's "anything goes" attitude. Others, including advertising critics and a plurality of surveyed USA Today readers, instead lauded the ads' effectiveness and unique style.

Through it all, the stories' biggest backer has remained Billy Vassiliadis, whose R&R Partners advertising agency created the 20-month, $58 million campaign for the convention authority.

"Frankly, I don't know that a campaign has ever come out of Las Vegas for any product that's ever had this kind of buzz," said Vassiliadis, R&R's chief executive officer. "We've stuck by them because they work. The minute we think they don't (work), we'll be the first ones saying it's time for a change."

During a five-day period in late October, approximately 100 actors plus crews that ranged from 30 to 50 workers gathered at sites throughout the valley to film six new "Vegas Stories" television spots. While an actor and actress canoodled on-camera, Vassiliadis even poked fun at those who said the spots encourage licentious behavior from visitors.

"All of these people are married, OK?" Vassiliadis joked. "It's perfectly moral."

The new ads will first air in late January and will likely continue on a rotating basis throughout the year. Director Hank Perlman, whose New York-based Hungry Man Production worked on the last round of "Vegas Stories" ads, said he's pleased to handle a campaign that offers such creative flexibility.

"There are so many directions you can go with these," Perlman said. "The best advertisements are the most truthful, and there is something in these spots that everyone can relate to because Vegas means `crazy times' to so many.

"We're starting with truth and allowing people to relate using their own experiences."

Perlman replaced business partner Bryan Buckley as director of the upcoming spots after Buckley accepted a feature film gig. Though new to the duty, Perlman said he wasn't fazed by the previous ads' critics, saying "Vegas means a lot of different things to a lot of different people" and viewers shouldn't forget the spots are intended to be fun.

R&R officials are keeping a tight lid on the new ads' content. Without giving away too many details, Perlman said the latest editions will expand upon the "Vegas Stories" theme while maintaining the funny, irreverent style of their predecessors.

"We've kept the tone and spirit of the ads people have seen, but it's been expanded into different groups," Perlman said.

For example, Perlman described one spot that features an older couple as "sweet and sentimental," yet still in line with this city's sense of allowing visitors to step outside their normal limits.

"These will have more depth than before; we've expanded the demographics from what was seen in the previous ads," Perlman said.

Said Vassiliadis: "Before we needed the campaign to get noticed ... and didn't pay a ton of attention to the demographics. Now we're looking at it more tactically and want it to work harder."

Vassiliadis added he'd like to produce more "Vegas Stories" spots before the 20-month campaign reaches its scheduled end next August, as well as other local ads targeting viewers of specific televised events such as the Oscars or Grammy awards shows.