‘Blue World’ ad campaign effective despite tight budget
INCLINE VILLAGE – Supporters of the Blue World advertising campaign may be blue about a diminishing budget in South Lake Tahoe, but the year-old-plus image-branding promotion has been creating awareness about Tahoe as a travel destination – at least for readers of Ski and Skiing magazines.
Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Executive Director Bill Chernock told tourism professionals gathered at the Hyatt Regency on Tuesday that the million-dollar promotion has created “a life of its own” – even with cutbacks from funding partners such as South Lake Tahoe.
A survey of Ski and Skiing magazines churned out the recognition Chernock and marketing supporters were seeking. When asked if they knew about the campaign, 12 percent of readers who received no hints of the study said they recall the campaign. When aided, the statistic jumps to 49 percent.
“The recall figures are encouraging,” Chernock said, adding the campaign’s call to action revolves around an 800 number that leads to a Lake Tahoe travel planner.
Given a limited budget, the television component of the campaign will not run until NBC airs the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in July.
But the print ads were on the job this winter in national magazines such as National Geographic Traveler, Travel and Leisure, Powder and Outside.
The campaign has raked in a slew of awards from the Travel Industry of America, as well as the Western Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus.
Image campaigns are designed as a long-term solution to advertising, with measurements that may be delayed or invisible.
Either way, one measurement has remained strong this past winter. California and Nevada motel-room tax remains up from last year. However, the number of rooms rented in California and Nevada’s average daily rate were down. But this is par for the course for a campaign intended to cater to a demographic that’s different to Tahoe. It’s called the destination visitor.
“We went through the process of firing our customers,” Chernock quipped about the change in target audience. This is a departure from the 10-crammed-to-a-$29-room customers. One can only remember poor college days of Top Ramen and happy hours.
One of the challenges facing the campaign is “political instability,” Chernock explained. The city, looking at its own fiscal crisis, was forced to cut the $3.1 million tourism agency’s funding by more than $235,000 this year. And more cuts may be on the way.
Following suit, another funding partner, the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority, expressed the desire to only match the city’s commitment of dollars. The TDVA provides about 40 percent of the LTVA budget.
“A lot of people are benefiting, but not everybody is paying,” he said.
The dwindling support has squeezed the landmark campaign, which moves into an edgier summer version promoting more nightlife to a handful of U.S. western states.
“We’re a click above life support, but we’re keeping the Blue concept alive,” Chernock said.
Still, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The city has hired a consultant to look into forming a Business Improvement District that would fund marketing efforts. Along with an already-blossoming public relations opportunity, the Blue World should see the green from a BID.
“I think we did very well for the first year of the Blue (World),” 2004 SMG Lake Tahoe Tourism Conference organizer Carl Ribaudo said.