Site Aims to Sell the Vegas Experience

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The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is using Vegasfreedom.com to build the city's brand.


Executed by interactive shop Critical Mass and R&R Partners, the 20-month campaign steers Vegasfreedom.com from its previous positioning as a simple directory of listings into a location that highlights Las Vegas experiences.


"It's really moving from an information portal to a destination-branding device," said John McLaughlin, Las Vegas-based senior account manager at Critical Mass.


Vegasfreedom.com's effort follows a $6.5 million push by Nevada publisher and real estate developer Greenspun Media Group to promote Vegas.com. That 5-year-old site is positioned as a hub for show tickets and deals on hotels, car rentals, packages, golf and tours.


Vegas.com's campaign, by kirshenbaum bond & partners west, San Francisco, has used a Mr. V fictional character as a mascot to push sales on Vegas.com fivefold from the same period last year. The offline and direct marketing effort began Jan. 1, and the results were for the first two weeks.


Critical Mass has its work cut out to stand out from the media clutter. To this end, the agency is sending an estimated 100,000 e-mails to two lists. One list is of consumers who registered online or offline with the convention authority to receive information. The other group comprises meeting planners, travel agents, trade show producers and press.


Supporting that push are keyword buys and banners on sites like E! Online, Yahoo Travel, Comedy Central and Maxim. A television spot by the convention authority's traditional ad agency, R&R Partners, also spreads the word.


But the site makeover is crucial.


"Well, I think the branding of the city is a big piece of it," McLaughlin said. "It's sending a message out there to consumers and focusing the Web site on driving the same message online as you're doing offline."


The site does not overly emphasize Las Vegas' gambling associations, playing up other features and attractions of Las Vegas equally.


Visitors to Vegasfreedom.com get a welcome message highlighting the city's entertainment, luxury hotels and resorts, casinos and gaming, golf, dining, the Strip and, of course, the wedding venues. There is a link to LVCVA.com for business users.


More importantly, visitors are asked to click on an image of a packed suitcase with the message overlay, "Only Vegas." Once clicked, the suitcase opens to reveal the contents. Run the mouse over "The Fabulous Las Vegas Guide Book," and it offers the ability to search for lodging, shows and events, attractions and activities, dining, shopping, golf, spas, wedding venues, maps, deals and links to other sites.


Clicking on a folded newspaper titled "What's Hot in Las Vegas" offers visitors a chance to win a shopping spree for registering contact information and interests and for opting in to newsletters.


The site uses golf balls to denote golfing options, dice as a game for betting on the future, and Vegas snapshots for viral messages that can be personalized.


Another section of the site intended to boost interaction between Las Vegas the brand and the consumer is called Vegas Stories. Users click on a T-shirt emblazoned "Vegas Stories" to reach that section. There they can upload their experiences during their stay. They stand to win the T-shirt. Fellow users can read those stories by clicking on a paper cup.


It does not end there. Consumers can see the first of three TV spots called "Mistress" playing on air as part of this campaign. R&R Partners created that spot.


It opens with a woman dressed for nightclubbing getting into a gleaming black limousine. She flirts with the driver and pulls up the partition en route to the airport.


When she steps out, the woman is in formal business attire and wearing glasses. As she talks of arranging a tea and crumpets meeting on the cell phone, she slips a tip into the driver's pocket, slightly brushing against him in the process. The tag line is, "What happens here, stays here."


Essentially, the call to action is for visitors to come to Las Vegas and make it their own.


"We want people to view the site as a way to increase the value of Las Vegas in their minds vs. using the site, 'Hey, I'm going to Las Vegas, let's check out what I'm supposed to do,'" McLaughlin said.


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