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Ad agencies get chance to grab R&R Partners’ LVCVA ad contract

When the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority finishes its $1.4 billion expansion and remodeling projects for the Las Vegas Convention Center in 2023, it may need to build a separate trophy case for all the advertising awards it has amassed over the years.

Who can forget “What happens here, stays here,” the phrase that has been modified and retreaded on late-night TV talk shows, on sitcoms and across all forms of pop culture?

And now, that campaign has a cousin, “What happens here, only happens here,” a message designed to remind the masses that the multitude of experiences offered in Las Vegas, whether it’s top-drawer entertainment, fine dining, sports or gambling, can only be offered collectively in our city. That campaign debuted the night of the Grammy Awards on Jan. 26.

The creative juices behind those ad campaigns and others for the last 30 years have belonged to R&R Partners, whose contracts with the convention authority have generated millions of dollars for the company. Last year, the LVCVA’s advertising budget climbed to $101.5 million.

But last week, the LVCVA announced the organization funded primarily by taxes assessed on Clark County’s motel and hotel rooms will seek bids for a new contract to be awarded sometime in the summer. A request for information with a Feb. 24 deadline was issued by the convention authority for advertising agencies interested in becoming the agency of record for the organization’s global marketing efforts.

Critics of R&R have complained over the years about the tight grip the company has had on the ad contract, noting the longtime friendship between R&R principal Billy Vassiliadis and former LVCVA President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter.

Ralenkotter has since been replaced by Steve Hill, but that isn’t the reason the contract is coming up for a competitive bid. The convention authority normally reviews the ad contract in 10-year cycles, often awarding the contract with a pair of optional extensions. The contract was last reviewed in 2010; it’s simply time to do it again.

Some of R&R’s critics say marketing Las Vegas is easy because the city sells itself — and it’s going to get even easier with Allegiant Stadium, the Raiders, the refurbished convention center and other attractions opening their doors in the years ahead.

Ask Vassiliadis if Las Vegas can market itself and he will laugh in your face.

Every decision R&R makes and every strategy the LVCVA board commits to is done after extensive research. When it comes to prodding potential visitors about a Vegas getaway, R&R and the convention authority know which buttons to push and when.

An example of that occurred recently when R&R and the LVCVA collaboratively agreed to abort a rollout event for the “What happens here, only happens here” campaign after the shocking death of basketball star Kobe Bryant.

The leaders knew Southern California was especially hurting after the news and that it just wasn’t right to put on a happy face and party in the wake of the tragedy.

R&R’s lengthy association with the right people have enabled it to get ideal messaging placement. And, if something isn’t working, the company has the alacrity to pivot quickly.

Is now the time to give another agency a shot at promoting Las Vegas? Are there others out there that can do a better job? It’s like a political term-limits debate: If government representatives are doing a good job, should they be required to leave office after a set period of time?

In the case of R&R, it and other agencies will be required to submit information for a committee to review. Candidates will be brought in for formal interviews. The list will be whittled to the top candidates who will make a formal timed presentation with all their audio and video resources.

In past competitions, board members convened in three separate rooms over a three-hour period to view presentations from the finalists. R&R ultimately won the competition, giving it another 10 years as the agency of record.

Vassiliadis has said it is an intense competition that is valuable in that it pushes his company to be at its best.

Is this the year R&R is dethroned? Is there something out there better than “What happens here, only happens here?”

The LVCVA will get its answers in a few months.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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