ATLANTIC CITY — Slot machines and blackjack tables are nowhere to be found in a new publicity campaign that depicts Atlantic City as a fun-filled tourist destination offering far more than casino gambling.
The “Do AC!” multimedia advertising blitz, unveiled Thursday, emphasizes nongambling attractions as it seeks to remake the city’s image from a casino town to an everything-for-everybody getaway location.
Print ads, 30-second television commercials and radio spots will be launched Monday throughout the Northeast Corridor from Boston to Washington, D.C., but primarily in the target markets of New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
“It’s about getting new tourist dollars to come here,” said Liza Cartmell, president of the Atlantic City Alliance, a casino-funded marketing coalition that is overseeing the campaign.
Atlantic City continues to see its visitor levels fall amid the sluggish economy and competition from casinos in surrounding states. After peaking at about 35 million in 2006, the number of visitors has been sliding ever since, to less than 30 million annually, Cartmell said.
Cartmell said during a presentation Thursday afternoon that she hopes the publicity campaign will draw 1 million new visitors each year, until Atlantic City once again reaches its top level of about 35 million. She said the alliance will focus on tapping a potential visitor market of about 13 million people, who live within a few hours drive of Atlantic City and have annual incomes of at least $75,000.
“We need to bring Atlantic City into their frame of reference,” she said at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
The alliance will spend $20 million this year to market and promote the city and $30 million in each of the following four years. The new ads are a key part of what Cartmell described as a four-phase publicity campaign that will unfold throughout the year.
Other parts of the campaign will be announced later, but Cartmell confirmed that one of the attractions will be a 3-D light show on the facade of Boardwalk Hall, the city’s main sports and entertainment complex.
The new ads are dominated by images of young, attractive people having fun at the city’s restaurants, nightclubs, retail shops, pools and spas. Fishing, golfing, the beaches and the Boardwalk also figure prominently in the campaign.
One ad shows a young couple cavorting in a pool and a woman receiving a spa treatment under the headline, “The city that was created to escape the city.” The escapism theme is also featured in another ad that is headlined, “Who says the weekend has to be on a weekend?” In it, there are photos of young people lounging in the sun and enjoying themselves during a night out.
Cartmell said the gambling scene was excluded from the ads because visitors are already well aware of the casinos. The idea, she stressed, is to create a new image that will broaden Atlantic City’s appeal as a tourist destination.
“We really have to change the perception of this marketplace,” she said.
Casinos fully endorsed not having any images of gambling in the ads, even though they are funding the publicity campaign, Cartmell said.
“They are 1,000 percent behind the effort to broaden the appeal of Atlantic City,” she said.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford said he liked what he saw about the campaign Thursday night and thinks residents will like how it represents the city as well.
“I think they’ve done a wonderful job of connecting the identity of Atlantic City, the history, the potential ... and wrapping it up,” Langford said.
He said he thinks residents will get excited when they see the two television commercials that will begin airing Monday.
Don Marrandino, eastern division president of Caesars Entertainment Corp., said he thinks it will be most successful if every casino employee gets on board.
“Our employees now have to embrace it,” Marrandino said. “We’re saying, ‘We’re fun’ — we are fun, but now we all have to have that same thing.”
During Cartmell’s presentation Thursday night, she said casinos have always spent money to promote themselves and their business, but this effort is about promoting the city as a whole.
“Do AC!” is the central theme of the campaign. Cartmell characterized “Do AC!” as more of a “call to action” than a true tourism slogan. Controversy followed in late March, when the theme was revealed as a major part of the alliance’s marketing effort. Patrick Rosenello, executive director of the Wildwoods’ Downtown Business Improvement District and Boardwalk Special Improvement District, questioned the wisdom of using “Do AC!” when the districts have been using “Do Wildwood” as their theme since 2007.
Although some may question the marketing tagline, tourism and shopping officials said the resort’s campaign is its own thing.
“That’s nothing like Wildwood,” said Cristin Bentz, assistant general manager of the Tanger Outlets in Atlantic City. “Not a thing.”
Whereas Wildwood’s brand is as a family-friendly and free beach tourism destination, Atlantic City’s newest campaign puts the emphasis on adult entertainment.
Images of latenight parties, stilettos and shopping speak to a different kind of fun.
Bentz said she was glad to see shopping highlighted as a stand-alone attraction within the city. She called the expanding outlets a “destination within the destination.”
The advertising firm Euro RSCG and the public relations firm Edelman are helping the alliance craft the new publicity campaign. In addition to print, TV and radio spots, the alliance plans to use online ads and social media to promote the city.
The Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority will tweak its website to support the publicity campaign. ACCVA President Jeffrey Vasser said the authority will create a new logo that is more consistent with the “Do AC!” brand. The authority will also change the look of the Atlantic City tourism website, atlanticcitynj.com.
“We will be working with (the alliance) team … to create a new look and feel,” Vasser said.
Atlantic City, through the alliance, now has far more money to promote its attractions, although the $30 million still falls short of the approximately $100 million spent annually by Las Vegas for marketing and publicity, Cartmell said.
Previously, the casinos spent $30 million annually to subsidize New Jersey’s financially troubled horseracing industry. Gov. Chris Christie ended the horseracing subsidies and allowed the casino money to be redirected to promote the city and its state-run Tourism District.
Staff writer Jennifer Bogdan contributed to this report.
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