ATLANTIC CITY - This town's new slogan, "Do A.C.," aims not only to rebrand the seaside resort, battered by gambling competition in other states, but also to encourage visitors to enjoy the many attractions that do not involve slots or table games.
Ads touting Atlantic City as a year-round destination for dining, entertainment, nightlife, the beach, and the famed Boardwalk - and not just a weekend getaway - were presented Thursday by the Atlantic City Alliance, the entity charged with marketing the resort's new state-run tourism district.
"The goal is to reposition the image of Atlantic City and improve visitor experiences," Liza Cartmell, president of the alliance, said Thursday at the Atlantic City Convention Center as she announced details of a five-year, $30 million-a-year rebranding effort - the largest destination-tourism marketing campaign in the resort's history. A similar launch was held earlier in the day in Manhattan.
Signs saying "Do Savor," "Do Splurge," and "Do Thrill" - all subsets of the bigger "Do A.C." theme - in bold, vibrant colors were displayed in the Convention Center, and the first two 30-second TV commercials featuring young models taking in the city's nightclubs, celebrity-chef restaurants, and shopping were shown to members of select media outlets.
The TV spots, print, and radio ads - all created by Euro RSCG New York - will roll out Monday in Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore. None features gambling - even with the soft opening of the $2.4 billion Revel this month.
The ads' vibrancy - "of people doing things and cutting loose and having fun," said Cartmell - is a metaphor for what has been sapped out of Atlantic City because of increased casino competition in New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
Annual visits to Atlantic City decreased from a peak of 35 million in 2006 to 29.5 million last year. Cartmell said she wanted to see the number back to 35 million by the time the five-year effort, which takes cues from similar campaigns in South Beach and New Orleans, concludes.
"We're having to redefine our destiny as far as what we need to be," she said. "Our biggest challenge is we're viewed as a one-note town."
One ad with the tagline "You did Atlantic City 10 years ago" clearly aims to get a chunk of those who haven't been back in a while.
"We're encouraging visitors - both new and those who haven't come in years - to come and play in Atlantic City," said Assemblyman Chris A. Brown (R., Atlantic), who serves on the Assembly Consumer Affairs, Tourism and Arts Committee. "This is not your grandfather's or even your father's resort anymore. Atlantic City really has become a world-class destination."
The multimedia campaign, officially titled "Do Anything. Do Everything," also includes billboards and a full station "takeover" of the Port Authority bus station in New York City. Ads will also be installed on commuter station platforms of the SEPTA, NJ Transit, Metro North, and Long Island Railroad systems.
About 45 percent of Atlantic City's customer base lives in North Jersey or New York, and about 27 percent is from Pennsylvania, according to the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority.
"Some of the greatest marketing and strategic talent in the world is involved with this campaign," said John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA), the state agency that uses gambling proceeds for statewide redevelopment projects. "This is more than a marketing campaign.
"This is about infrastructure improvements, improving perceptions and realities of Atlantic City as a clean and safe destination," he said. "The single biggest challenge is effectively communicating all that Atlantic City has to offer to a broad spectrum of people."
In summer 2010, Gov. Christie announced plans to overhaul Atlantic City to help resuscitate its ailing casino industry and assist the state's struggling horse tracks. Central to his vision was creation of a state-run tourism district, approved a year ago and overseen by CRDA.
The Atlantic City Alliance was created shortly afterward as a not-for-profit corporation in partnership with CRDA to market and promote the new district.
Funding for the rebranding campaign - $30 million a year - comes from money originally set aside annually to dissuade the state's horse tracks from installing video lottery terminals. Christie did away with the subsidy as part of his overhaul plan and said he wanted to see the racetracks become self-sufficient.
"Transforming Atlantic City's gaming and tourism economy and developing it into a world-class destination and resort is a vital and ongoing commitment of this administration," Christie said in a statement. "With this newly integrated tourism campaign, there is finally a concerted effort to properly fund Atlantic City marketing initiatives to attract visitors to the region, a need that has gone unmet for far too long."
A new website, www.DoAtlanticCity.com, will go live Monday as a supplement and will feature trip-planning tools to assist visitors in choosing lodging, dining, shopping, and entertainment options. Cartmell said next week's rollout represented about $20 million of the $30 million campaign.
A March 2012 report from CRDA on Tuesday showed there were more visitors at Atlantic City's information centers, an increase in website traffic, more conventions, heavier traffic on the Atlantic City Expressway, a jump in air service at Atlantic City International Airport, and more overnight bus passengers from a year ago.
But one measurement that remains on the downward trend is casino revenue. Atlantic City's 11 gambling halls reported revenue was down 5 percent, to $266.3 million, last month from a year ago, according to the state Division of Gaming Enforcement. That was the 43d time in the last 44 months gambling revenue had declined from a peak of $5.2 billion in 2006.
Contact Suzette Parmley
at 856-779-3844 or firstname.lastname@example.org.