Port Authority bus passengers in New York City were greeted Monday by a station full of ads inviting them to “Do AC!”
Rail commuters in New York City, Long Island and Philadelphia were urged to head to Atlantic City for some fun and relaxation in “the city that was created to escape the city.”
All over the Northeast, from Boston to Washington, D.C., print ads, billboards, TV commercials and radio spots were rolled out Monday as part of the official start of a $20 million publicity campaign to draw more tourists to Atlantic City. The campaign was developed by Euro RSCG Worldwide, a global advertising firm with clients including Kraft Foods, Volvo and Charles Schwab.
“Today, we are making Atlantic City history by launching this campaign to show off the wonderful, diverse elements which our city has to offer,” Liza Cartmell, president of the Atlantic City Alliance, said in a statement. “We are confident that the advertisements and larger marketing campaign will encourage increased visitation and reinvigorate the local tourism industry.”
The alliance, a marketing coalition funded by Atlantic City’s casinos, will spend $20 million this year and $30 million in each of the next four years for a multimedia promotional campaign featuring the theme “Do AC!” In addition to print, TV and radio spots, the alliance plans to use online ads and social media to market the city.
Although Atlantic City is synonymous with casinos, the marketing campaign includes no images of gambling whatsoever in the ads or commercials. Instead, the ads showcase an array of non-gambling attractions, including the city’s beaches, Boardwalk, restaurants, nightclubs, retail outlets and spas.
New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore are the primary target areas for the ads. The alliance is reaching out to a potential audience of 13 million adults who live within a few hours drive of Atlantic City and earn at least $75,000 annually.
Trevor Villet, creative director at Baltimore-based communications firm Planit, said one of the TV clips he viewed online and the accompanying website clearly present that there’s more than just gambling at the resort.
“The question in my mind is whether the television spot does so compellingly or memorably enough. Like it or not, many East Coast destinations are attempting — to varying degrees — to sell the whole experience as opposed to its key draw,” Villet said, pointing to Ocean City, Md., which has used a campaign to cross promote its beach and Boardwalk.
In New York, the Port Authority bus terminal is plastered with Atlantic City-themed ads in what the alliance calls “a takeover” of the bustling transportation hub. Ads have also been placed on commuter rail platforms in New York City, Long Island and Philadelphia.
Two 30-second TV commercials are titled “Do Anything” and “Do Proximity,” the latter a reminder that Atlantic City is just a short drive away for its target audience. The publicity campaign encourages spontaneity by calling on tourists to “Do Anything, Do Everything” in Atlantic City. One ad playfully beckons visitors with the words, “Do the right thing. Do the wrong thing. Do everything.”
Villet said it’s clear that the ads focus on the “glamor/glitz” angle, but warned that they might not appeal to families and older couples not necessarily looking for nightlife.
“Every clip shows people dressed well and lit beautifully, which could help parlay the young, upscale gambling mindset to everything that goes on there. On the other hand, it could easily alienate older folks or families who could be turned off by it,” he said.
Some city stakeholders have suggested the resort should be developing and promoting family-oriented attractions as a way of drawing more tourists to the area, while others have argued the idea is unrealistic given Atlantic City’s proximity to other shore towns with expansive Boardwalks and amusement piers.
The sluggish economy and competition from casinos in surrounding states have driven down Atlantic City tourism from a peak of nearly 35 million visitors in 2006 to fewer than 30 million now. Cartmell hopes the new marketing campaign will attract 1 million new visitors each year until Atlantic City reaches its top level of 35 million again.
“With travel options abounding in the Northeast, Atlantic City consistently faces competition when consumers are deciding where to travel,” she said.
Cartmell described the launch as “so far, so good,” during an interview with The Press of Atlantic City. She noted that the marketing campaign has attracted heavy media coverage. She estimated it has already generated 17 million “impressions” from people who have read, heard or seen stories about the publicity campaign in the print and broadcast media. She used the word “impressions” because some of those people may have seen the stories more than once.
The goal is to portray Atlantic City as a diverse tourist destination, one that offers more than casino gambling. Cartmell explained that visitors are already well aware of the casinos, so there was no need to make them the centerpiece of the marketing campaign.
“Atlantic City’s new campaign is bold, edgy, vibrant and inviting. It creatively showcases all that Atlantic City has to offer as a world-class destination resort,” Mayor Lorenzo Langford said in a statement. “The campaign’s message is clear: When you visit Atlantic City, you get a total experience — one you can’t find elsewhere.”
Peter Madden, president and CEO of AgileCat, a Philadelphia-based branding agency whose clients include Valley Forge Casino Resort, said the print ads he has seen show that Atlantic City is clearly repositioning itself as a getaway as exciting as Las Vegas but closer to home.
"It's a very positive thing to see Atlantic City do anything to promote itself. The question is can the campaign be so enticing, so riveting, so compelling that people are sure it's 100 percent worth the dollars to travel and stay there," Madden said. "Atlantic City has to have such an offering that the thought of the drive through more depressed areas and tougher scenes in the city can be quickly extinguished once you move onto the clubs.”
The website — doatlanticcity.com — went live Monday to supplement the advertising blitz. That website redirects to a redesigned version of www.atlanticcitynj.com, which is operated by the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority. It includes planning tools to help visitors choose among the lodging, dining, shopping and entertainment options in the city. Visitors will be able to customize their trips by using the website’s special features for trip budgeting and travel partners.
The next step is for the alliance to track the response to the ads through the website, Cartmell said. It will also begin to work with the ACCVA to hone the special programs and promotional giveaways that are offered to visitors.
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