ATLANTIC CITY — The Atlantic City Alliance still wants tourists to “Do AC” in 2014, but this year, visitors will be getting more guidance on just what they should be doing.
On Thursday, the marketing coalition announced that this year it will focus on specific Atlantic City activities, rather than simply promoting “Do AC” as a brand. Most immediately that means a new push to promote Atlantic City as a premier nightlife destination along with efforts to promote “The Taste of Summer,” a move toward pushing indoor Atlantic City activities in the winter months.
“We had such a brand issue — and it still is an issue to some extent — that we spent most of our money there early on,” alliance CEO Liza Cartmell said. “Now, what we need to do is to pull people in with specific things they can do.”
The alliance was created by Tourism District legislation nearly three years ago and has a $30 million annual budget funded by the Atlantic City casinos.
The group unveiled its strategies to elected officials, casino executives and other Atlantic City stakeholders Thursday over breakfast at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel.
The $15 million the alliance spends on advertising the city will be spent differently than in years past, Cartmell said. Last year, 86 percent of the funding was spent on brand messaging, meaning efforts to promote “Do AC” in hopes of changing the perception of Atlantic City’s image. This year, brand messaging will drop to 30 percent of the budget.
Advertising for specific Atlantic City events accounted for 8 percent of the budget in 2013 but will take up 56 percent of the budget this year, said Cartmell, adding that the alliance is planning for full-page advertisements listing upcoming events.
Data released in the presentation showed the public’s perceptions of Atlantic City are improving. Twenty-eight percent of those polled in fall 2013 described Atlantic City as a safe place to visit, compared with 20 percent in spring 2012. Similarly, 25 percent of those polled described Atlantic City as a clean place to visit, compared with 16 percent in spring 2012. Cartmell acknowledged those numbers are still low but said it was encouraging to see improvement.
While most appeared receptive to the strategy, Atlantic County Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica publicly took issue with the leadership of the alliance and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. He suggested more communication is needed with business owners, elected officials and the public, and questioned why financing has been spent things such as art parks while street paving hasn’t occurred.
“Certainly, communally, we’re trying to survive,” Formica said. “All the statistics in the world are not going to change the outcome of Atlantic City.”
Officials continued the campaign kickoff with an announcement Thursday at Haven Nightclub at Golden Nugget Atlantic City. Over the next month, the alliance will be hosting a party bus, stocked with a bar, strobe lights and a DJ.
The bus will begin its night in Philadelphia and will cart about 30 people to Atlantic City each night to hop from nightclub to nightclub. Participants, who will be recruited by partners or tapped while waiting in lines at Philadelphia nightclubs, will be asked to tweet about their otherwise free experience with the hashtag #DoACNightlife.
Cartmell said the idea to better promote Atlantic City’s nightlife grew from the casino properties that told the alliance of the growing nightlife industry in the city. The alliance will focus on bringing the party bus to Atlantic City on Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays or Mondays.
“These places are already jammed Saturday night,” Cartmell said. “We don’t need extra volume there.”
Ivan Kane, owner of Ivan Kane’s Royal Jelly Burlesque Nightclub at Revel Casino-Hotel, said after spending several years in Las Vegas, where he designed the Forty Deuce burlesque nightclub, he’s confident Atlantic City can match the nightlife experience of the Las Vegas Strip.
“It’s a viable option instead of staying in Philadelphia or staying in New York,” Kane said. “But where it is now is nothing compared to where it can be.”
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