The $20 million “Do AC” advertising campaign that made its splashy debut last year will have another featured attraction when it enters its next phase for the spring and summer tourist season: casino gambling.

Images of slot machines and table games were deliberately excluded from the campaign last year to instead focus on the city’s dining, entertainment and shopping attractions. But this year, the casino action will be part of the ads.

Liza Cartmell, president of the Atlantic City Alliance marketing coalition, said a mixture of casino scenes and nongambling attractions in the newest ads will help showcase the resort as a diverse tourist destination as it heads into its peak season and continues to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

Addressing the city’s business community Tuesday, Cartmell gave a sneak preview of the new television spots, print ads and billboards built around the “Do AC” tourism theme. The Atlantic City Alliance, a private group funded by the casinos, developed the campaign last year to draw visitors from throughout the Northeast.

Cartmell said the ad campaign has unquestionably heightened interest in Atlantic City among visitors. However, the resort town is still not regarded as a clean tourist destination.

Online surveys that were conducted to judge the effectiveness of the campaign found that 85 percent of those polled regard Atlantic City as “a great place for a quick, spontaneous getaway.” But at the same time, only 21 percent of potential vacationers view the resort as a “very clean place to visit.”

Cartmell said the poll results show that Atlantic City continues to battle age-old “perceptions” about its image, particularly among tourists who haven’t visited in recent years and seen the massive cleanup efforts.

“When you look at 85 percent of the people who say it’s a great place for a getaway, but only 21 percent think it’s a clean place, that is the perception,” Cartmell told reporters after unveiling the new “Do AC” ads during a presentation to the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce.

Another chamber speaker, John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the state agency that oversees the city’s Tourism District, said progress continues on initiatives to make the town cleaner and safer. Palmieri, though, acknowledged that “we don’t have the luxury of time.”

“We’ve got to make things happen within a short order,” Palmieri told the audience. “We’re not finished yet. We still have a lot to do.”

New construction projects planned throughout the city will supplement the CRDA’s efforts to remove blight, Palmieri said. Highlights include a new arts district, a new marketplace loosely inspired by Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal and new retail attractions at The Walk, the city’s shopping and entertainment district.

Atlantic City is trying to reinvent itself as an exciting, upscale vacation retreat as well as a gambling haven. The “Do AC” ads are a major part of efforts to polish the city’s image. As it did last year, the ad campaign will target tourists principally in the Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore markets.

TV commercials unveiled Tuesday show tourists having fun at the casinos, along with other images of young, attractive people enjoying the beaches, restaurants, nightlife, surfing, golfing and other nongambling amenities.

Some of the print ads feature scenes of people sitting at the gambling tables, having dinner at a restaurant table or receiving a massage on a spa table under the headline, “Your tables are ready.”

Billboards poke fun at competing casino markets in surrounding states. One billboard that will overlook highways heading into Philadelphia playfully reminds motorists, “You’re heading in the wrong direction. Do AC.”

This year, the ads have been changed to include what Cartmell described as a “call to action.” There seems to be greater urgency to promote the array of special events planned for the Boardwalk and other popular tourist spots this spring and summer.

For instance, messages have been added to the end of the ads to advertise a particular event, such as the Atlantic City Airshow scheduled for June 26. This spring and summer will feature a diverse lineup of tourist-friendly events, including a wine-tasting festival in May, a sand-sculpting championship in June and the Fourth of July fireworks display.

Heading into the fall, the city will feature the return of the Miss America Pageant in September and the Atlantic City Boardwalk Rodeo in October, among other events. Cartmell said plans are also being made for an Italian-American festival over the Columbus Day weekend.

“It leaves me excited about the future, the summer and the re-emergence of Atlantic City as a great destination,” Sam Young, chairman of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, said of the ad campaign and the special events.

However, the city continues to struggle with declining tourism, the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy and competition from casinos in neighboring states. Frank Formica, an Atlantic County freeholder and Atlantic City bakery owner, urged the tourism leaders to coordinate their efforts to boost business.

“We have to increase the metric for the bottom line,” Formica said, calling for more tourism to help local businesses.

Contact Donald Wittkowski:

609-272-7258

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