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Chris Sieroty

Cosmopolitan tries new effort to set itself apart

14 January 2014

LAS VEGAS -- Over the last three years, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has emerged as the luxury Strip resort known for its sexy and edgy advertising — a corporate philosophy that has set the property apart in a crowded gaming landscape.

Today, the $3.9 billion casino-hotel continues to move beyond the normal associated with casino advertising, introducing carve-out ads in Esquire and Vanity Fair as well as offering mints and coupons on United flights and running ads in movie theaters.

That industry normal includes ads in luxury magazines, newspaper or billboard ads, and even television commercials, or ads running continuously on small TV screens in local taxicabs.

“The Cosmopolitan does a terrific job,” said Jim Signorelli, CEO of ESW Partners in Chicago. “Most casino advertising is centered around come and play and win. They are selling an attitude that goes beyond what the typical casino promotes.”

Signorelli said the Cosmopolitan is concerned about reaching an audience that might not be interested in visiting a casino. He compared their commercials to those produced by Nike or Apple.

“They were the first to do it,” Signorelli said. “They put the first flag in and it’s very hard for others to copy. Instead of selling the church, they are selling the religion.”

That approach to advertising is overseen by Lisa Marchese, who helped set the Cosmopolitan apart with its provocative media campaign launched alongside the hotel’s opening in 2010 with the theme “Just the Right Amount of Wrong.”

The Cosmopolitan also wrapped taxis in Las Vegas with advertisements.

“We’ve always tried to find unique ways to connect with customers,” said Marchese, the Cosmopolitan’s chief marketing officer.

Marchese’s challenge now is to find ways to continue the property’s string of successful campaigns. The Cosmopolitan’s “Just the Right Amount of Wrong” campaign released two months before opening day celebrated all sorts of misbehavior happening within the property.

That campaign was followed in 2012 with a spot featuring a man flirting with a blond-haired woman at the poolside bar with lyrics to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” as the commercial’s only dialogue.

Now, the Cosmopolitan has taken to the friendly skies as it expands its reach by offering passengers a gift box with seven cards with tips about Las Vegas and other offers along with sugar-free mints.

The gift boxes are being offered on United Airlines flights to McCarran International Airport from its 10 hubs, including Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix and Los Angeles. Marchese acknowledged that there were a “fair amount of operational challenges” in the beginning.

But, with 2 million passengers visiting Las Vegas annually on United flights, she said the passengers were “a captive audience” for the Cosmopolitan. Marchese said the campaign also taps into their excitement about coming to Vegas.

“It’s been a fantastic way to reach visitors,” she said. “Even if they aren’t staying at the Cosmopolitan, we’re hopeful we will get them interested in visiting our property.”

Marchese said advertising was about connecting with customers.

“We get to engage them for three or four minutes on a flight in a more gracious way than our competition,” Marchese said. “It’s about making sure they have a fantastic experience in Las Vegas.”

One gift box given out on a flight from Chicago included a 2-for-1 deal at the Cosmopolitan’s Wicked Spoon buffet, $25 in free slot play, a free cocktail at chef Jose Andres’ China Poblano or Jaleo restaurants or a coupon for three nights for the price of two.

The offers will be changed every three months, she said.

Marchese said the property also bought ads in Esquire and Vanity Fair to market Rose Rabbit Live, a new social club that opened on New Year’s Eve.

The seven-page ad features a series black and white photos featuring party scenes and celebrities from the 1940s. In the middle was a booklet titled “The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas presents”

The booklet placed in the center of the ad features messages, including “we desire a place to gather,” or “And experiment with the Night.”

“We thought the social club harkened back to the days of the speakeasy,” Marchese said. “So we used that as a launching point. We knew it was a super impactful way to get our message out. It’s a compelling insert in compelling magazines.”

The Cosmopolitan is also purchasing 60-second ads in movie theaters in Dallas, Chicago New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Those mini-movies are marketing Rose Rabbit Lie to a potential visitor.

It’s an expensive media strategy. Marchese declined to disclose the advertising budget, beyond saying that media buys “come at a premium.”

“They are unique, but more impactful,” she said. ”We are going to look for more opportunities like our United campaign. We are doing our best to separate ourselves from the competition.”