Some Atlantic City businesses have been so impressed by the resort’s new “Do AC” campaign that they’ve adopted it as their own.
Atlantic City Bar & Grill is handing out “Do AC Bar” magnets.
Strip club Bare Exposure lures passers-by with a banner urging them to “Do BE.”
And they’re wearing “Do TB” apparel at Tony Boloney’s pizzeria.
The Atlantic City Alliance, which created the “Do AC” campaign, is not entirely happy.
“We’ve been very happy to see this pop up all over town. But we have to protect the (trademark),” said Jeff Guaracino, spokesman for the alliance.
Legal experts say that won’t be easy, mainly due to the simplicity that makes the design so appealing in the first place. Nonetheless, the alliance is pursuing a trademark and sending cease-and-desist letters to imitators meant to discourage unauthorized use of the logo, Guaracino said.
The bright, 5.5-inch diameter magnets bearing the slogan seem to be the most successful component of the alliance’s tourism promotion campaign launched in April. Since then, the alliance has distributed more than 100,000 of the discs, which have quickly become a fixture on cars in and around the city.
“As soon as I saw the ‘Do AC’ magnets, I thought, ‘OK, that’s cute and all,’ but it was no big deal until I saw them everywhere,” said Atlantic City Bar & Grill owner Gino Garofalo. “So then I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to duplicate that and add “Bar.” How hard is that?’ And they’ve been going like hotcakes.”
Garofalo said he’s given out about 5,000 “Do AC Bar” magnets since the spring.
At the same time, Tony Boloney’s owner Michael Hauke launched “Do TB” apparel for customers and staff at his pizzeria in the South Inlet neighborhood.
Local band EZ Does It is using the logo to promote shows such as one coming up Saturday at the Diving Horse Cabaret on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
And starting this week, “Skate AC” stickers, hats and T-shirts will be used to further the campaign led by Jason Forslund to build a skatepark in Atlantic City.
“When something works, and people have the mind to (recognize) that, then they just apply it to what they’re doing. They use the principles of their design to get their point across, get their message out there,” Forslund said. “You’re encouraging everyone to ‘Do AC’, why not encourage them to skate AC, surf AC, shop AC, dine AC?”
Guaracino said the Atlantic City Alliance isn’t opposed to Forslund and others tweaking the logo for their own purposes. The agency just wants them to follow guidelines that are “part of any brand standard,” he said.
“We want all businesses who use variations … to reach out and let us know in advance so we can determine whether it fits within the guidelines,” Guaracino said.
Guaracino would not release those guidelines to The Press of Atlantic City. The agency also won’t provide them to those seeking permission to use the logo. Instead, the alliance will consider potential uses on “a case-by-case basis” and try to reach out to those who don’t check first with the agency, he said.
Forslund, Hauke, Garofalo and others interviewed for this story said they did not contact the alliance before using the logo, nor have they received any correspondence from the agency.
“Companies send out a lot of these letters, and the expectation is that people will back off the use of a logo,” said Greg Lastowka, professor of intellectual property law at Rutgers Law School.
But the correspondence, in the form of cease-and-desist letters, does not guarantee action actually will be taken, or that it will work out in favor of the party trying to enforce its trademark, Lastowka said.
“To get trademark infringement, you’d have to prove confusion over the source of services,” Lastowka said. “Since (other businesses) are changing letters to play off the original logo, the intent is for consumers to get that they’re separate things. And if consumers aren’t confused, then there would be no trademark infringement. There wouldn’t be a case.”
An example of such confusion would be if someone who saw the “Do BE” logo thought that Bare Exposure was directly affiliated with or sponsored by the Atlantic City Alliance.
To prove that, the trademark bearer — in this case, the alliance — could be required to show confusion among at least 10 percent to 20 percent of respondents to a properly conducted survey, Lastowka said.
The alliance “would take steps to protect” the trademark once secured, Guaracino said.
But he gets why others are using the logo.
“We think the design is beautiful, simple and easy, that it’s elegant,” he said. “And … to be associated with the campaign is also being associated with the renaissance of Atlantic City.”
The alliance has not yet completed a study on the effectiveness of the “Do AC” slogan, logo, magnets and other elements of its campaign, but doing so is a part of the rebranding project, Guaracino said.
Regardless of whether the alliance finds those initiatives are linked with increased tourism, the slogan often strikes people as broad and prompts them to ask questions about it, said Joe Kelly, president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber.
“Even if people just ask about it, it at least gets people to start asking ... about Atlantic City,” Hauke said. “For me, it’s a matter of capitalizing on that buzz.”
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