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Chris Jones

Wisdom While You Wait

5 October 2004

Las Vegas travel leaders are confident an array of sword-wielding knights, Carrot Top's comic antics and a touch of Lance Burton magic will help reduce the length and frequency of security-related delays at McCarran International Airport.

The Clark County Aviation Department, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Transportation Security Administration will today unveil their Traveler Information Prescreening Series, or TIPS campaign, at McCarran, the nation's sixth-busiest passenger airport.

Using a series of video vignettes, the $1.6 million effort will use local performers to entertain and educate travelers on their way to airport security checkpoints, said Randy Walker, Clark County aviation director.

TSA screeners must frequently remind travelers to perform tasks such as removing metal items from their pockets or preparing to show their identification, Walker said. He hopes the vignettes will successfully impart security-related tips to travelers well before they cause delays at checkpoints.

Around noon today, travelers will get their first look at the videos, which will be shown repeatedly on 25 monitors near the A/B and C/D gate security checkpoints. Clips include Burton's slight-of-hand magic urging travelers to remove coins and metal objects from their pockets, as well as comedian Rita Rudner's comic pleas to treat security procedures seriously.

Separate vignettes feature singers Wayne Newton and Clint Holmes; performers from the Las Vegas Hilton's Star Trek Experience, Luxor's Blue Man Group and Excalibur's "Tournament of Kings;" and clowns from Cirque du Soleil productions, among others. The performers were not paid for their appearances.

Eleven informational vignettes and two welcome messages were produced, Walker said. Each includes versions that last approximately 15, 30 or 45 seconds, depending on the wait times in effect at McCarran.

The vignettes will run continuously, though Walker said the airport could someday mix advertisements between the various security spots.

Plans for TIPS first took shape early this year after McCarran's security checkpoints endured multihour backups over Presidents Day weekend and the final Sunday of the International Consumer Electronics Show. Airport screeners said alarms set off by CES attendees' myriad techno-gadgets played a large part in delays that late-January weekend, as did bullet-laden keychains given to conventioneers a few weeks later at February's Shooting, Hunting & Outdoor Trade Show & Conference.

Lacking connections in the convention and entertainment community, the aviation department asked the convention authority to help develop the Vegas-style TIPS campaign.

"We saw TSA do some stuff with videos, but they were really boring and people don't pay attention to boring," Walker said. "But if something is fun and creative, people will pay attention to it."

Rossi Ralenkotter, the convention authority's president and chief executive officer, said it's important to minimize airport delays because long waits often send travelers away with a negative impression of the city.

"Hopefully this will put a little smile on everyone's face as they leave town and encourage them to come back again," said Ralenkotter, who that added a sister campaign featuring printed handouts on airport security procedures should be distributed to convention attendees within the next few weeks.

Local TSA Director Jim Blair was instrumental in securing federal approval for Las Vegas' unique traveler awareness program, Walker added. Such cooperation makes sense for everyone involved, said Nico Melendez, a Los Angeles-based TSA spokesman.

"We've always talked about using each airports' unique opportunities to tailor our security message to improve security and customer service," Melendez said Monday. "This demonstrates the partnership we've built with (McCarran)."

The TIPS vignettes were produced by R&R Partners, the convention authority's contracted marketing and advertising agency. That company's chief executive officer, Billy Vassiliadis, is married to Rosemary Vassiliadis, who is Clark County's deputy aviation director.

Walker said Friday the decision to use R&R to produce the ads was based solely on the company's relationship with the convention authority and local performers. Outside of paying for the airport's new $1.5 million liquid-crystal display system and its supporting hardware, Walker said no county funds were spent on the TIPS campaign.

The convention authority spent $98,000 to produce the video segments.

"We took care of what we could: putting in the front loaders, adding the screens and space for more security lanes," Walker said. "The LVCVA said, `We've got the contacts with the conventions and the creative performers,' so the responsibilities were split based on who could handle what best."

Added Ralenkotter: "That's what we do best. We're the creative marketing, branding company for the destination and that was how that (deal) went forward."