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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Newest Vegas Ads Tout Specific Attractions

15 June 2005

Starting this week, consumers nationwide will get a taste of Las Vegas through a series of new television spots that will do something that tourism bureaus nationwide have so far avoided.

They will name names.

The new ad campaign, called "Vegas Alibi," takes a different tack from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's existing ads by naming specific restaurateurs, shows and retail boutiques to attract visitors.

In one spot, a woman tells her significant other that she bought clothes at Versace and Ferragamo boutiques and earrings at Tiffany when he asks what she did with girlfriends during her trip to Las Vegas. In other spots, a man tells his mother that he saw Blue Man Group with friends in Vegas, while a couple tells friends at a dinner party that they ate at an Emeril restaurant on their trip.

The ads, unveiled at the LVCVA's monthly board meeting Tuesday, are appearing in at least seven major cities nationwide alongside the popular "What Happens Here, Stays Here" ads. The new campaign will include print, online and billboard ads. Using money largely generated by hotel room taxes spent by tourists, he LVCVA expects to spend about $20 million over the next several months on both campaigns.

The "What Happens Here, Stays Here" ads have become a pop culture icon by using edgy humor to market Las Vegas as an exciting destination.

The "Vegas Alibi" ads aren't brand ads like the others but instead are product ads because they clue in potential customers about specific attractions they might not have been aware of, said Rob O'Keefe, account director at the LVCVA's advertising agency R&R Partners.

"It's one thing to say we have great dining and it's another to say we have Bobby Flay," O'Keefe said.

The casinos were OK with the name dropping even if one ad is plugging one attraction over another, O'Keefe said. A few attractions did not want to be mentioned in ads for some unknown reason, he said.

Each of the ten television ads in circulation will feature a different restaurant, store or show.

"We cast a wide net," O'Keefe said. "Naming the products is necessary for people to believe that we have better restaurants, better entertainment than other destinations."

The ads also plug the LVCVA's recently revamped Web site, which lists all of Las Vegas' casinos and nongaming attractions, he said. The site has been customized so that visitors can plan entire vacations around specific interests such as shopping and dining, O'Keefe said. Visitors can also use the site to create "alibis" that can fool their friends and can cut and paste photos of themselves into silly situational pictures that can be emailed, he said.

Likewise, the ads will show up on cable channels, magazines or Web sites that appeal to the activities referenced in them. A spot that mentions Cirque du Soleil can be seen on the E! network and a Bobby Flay spot will show up on the Food Network, O'Keefe said.

LVCVA management likes what it sees so far.

"As the city reinvents itself our branding needs to reinvent itself," LVCVA Senior Vice President of Marketing Terry Jicinsky said. The ads are aimed at communicating with consumers by presenting Las Vegas "from their point of view rather than ours."

Separately, LVCVA officials told board members they have selected Colorado-based project management firm MWH Global Inc. to oversee the agency's $400 million upgrade of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The board also approved $2.5 million to be allocated for the planning phase of the project, which is expected to begin construction next year.

Two convention center customers showed up to the board meeting to express support for the upgrade, which will involve adding meeting space for convention-goers.

"It's not just about what (convention attendees) do on the show floor but about how they can maximize their time," said Sam Bundy, merchandise group president of VNU Exhibitions, which produces the ASD/AMD gift merchandise show twice a year in Las Vegas. "As we all know Vegas has lots of things that can attract you. Time management is critical."

Chuck Schwartz, chief executive of Convexx, praised Las Vegas as "the only great place to do a show" but said the Las Vegas Convention Center -- with its two separate convention halls, remains "fragmented." The company, which manages the SEMA auto products show in Las Vegas, has previously built a connector between the two halls to get visitors from one building to the other.

Board members also approved a variety of other marketing initiatives Tuesday including $1.4 million to renew contracts with marketing offices in several foreign countries. Increasing international marketing is part of the LVCVA's five-year plan to boost annual visitors to 43 million by 2009 and will include Las Vegas' first consumer advertising abroad. About 13 percent of Las Vegas visitors now come from outside the United States.