New television and newspaper ads that invite tourists back to Atlantic City in Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath depict the seaside resort as unscathed by the storm and open for business.
“It takes more than a hurricane to stop us from doing what we do,” is the recurring theme in the advertising campaign sponsored by the Atlantic City Alliance, a casino-funded marketing coalition.
Alliance spokesman Jeff Guaracino said Friday the ads come with a dual purpose — to revive the tourist trade in the hurricane’s wake and counter misperceptions that landmarks such as the Atlantic City Boardwalk were destroyed by the storm.
“We thought it was important to fight back with pictures,” Guaracino said.
A 30-second TV commercial that debuted on Thanksgiving in the Philadelphia market portrays people having fun on the Boardwalk, playing football on the beach and savoring the city’s shops, restaurants, spas and casinos.
The images are accompanied by a series of messages assuring tourists that Atlantic City is ready to welcome them back. The opening sequence features a couple jogging on the Boardwalk amid the words, “Our Boardwalk still standing strong.”
The commercial closes with the message, “Do the Jersey Shore Comeback,” a post-hurricane takeoff on the alliance’s $20 million “Do AC” publicity campaign launched last spring.
“We’re open, we’re welcoming and we want them to come back. That is the basic message,” Guaracino explained.
In addition to Philadelphia, the TV commercial will run in the New York, North Jersey, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., markets. They are all major feeder markets for Atlantic City.
Atlantic City continues to struggle to recover from the hurricane, both in drawing visitors back to town and contending with a slew of misinformation about the severe damage Sandy supposedly inflicted. Guaracino said the alliance hopes the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, including the Black Friday shopping rush, will provide a big boost.
Earlier, the alliance commissioned an online poll that found that 40 percent of those surveyed wrongly thought the Boardwalk had been destroyed. Guaracino said another poll will be conducted to see whether perceptions have changed after the alliance’s ad campaign.
“We have really tried to take both a proactive and reactive approach,” he said.
Atlantic City escaped the brunt of the Oct. 29 hurricane. Many homes were flooded, but the city’s main tourist attractions — the casinos, Boardwalk and shopping areas — had little damage. Some national TV news outlets reported that the entire Boardwalk had been washed away, showing a small section of the Boardwalk that had been damaged by previous storms and was condemned.
One part of the alliance’s strategy is reaching out to the national media to combat reports of severe damage. Guaracino said not only was it reported that the Boardwalk was destroyed, but some media confused the famed Steel Pier in Atlantic City with a devastated amusement pier farther up the coast in storm-ravaged Seaside Heights. The Steel Pier was unharmed.
“The Steel Pier was the pier they thought was destroyed,” Guaracino said. “People often equate the Steel Pier with New Jersey.”
The Boardwalk and the Steel Pier will be prominently featured in the alliance’s next major ad, a full-page spread scheduled to run in the New York Times newspaper on Wednesday. Side-by-side photos in the ad show the undamaged Steel Pier and people strolling on the Boardwalk in front of Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.
“Our Boardwalk still standing strong. Our city still standing tall,” the ad’s headline proclaims.
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