weather icon Partly Cloudy

Marketing experts offer mixed views of new MGM ad campaign

Don’t call MGM Resorts International a gaming company.

The Strip’s biggest casino operator this past weekend launched a multimillion-dollar corporate branding campaign that makes almost no mention of its largest business segment.

A key piece of the campaign, a 60-second TV ad that is being aired nationally, highlights the company’s wide offering of shows, restaurants, bars and sporting events.

Yet, there is not one word or image about gaming in the ad. Not one slot nor one table. Not even a card or die.

MGM doesn’t even consider its 2 million square feet of gaming space — enough to fill 35 football fields — the one element that unites its more than two dozen global properties.

Rather the array of entertainment experiences “form the nexus across the company’s 27 distinctive resort destinations,” MGM said in a statement on Monday to announce the new campaign.

From Ancient Rome to Vegas

The new video clip starts with a series of photos of ancient Rome, such as a coliseum, followed by the modern-day MGM equivalent, like the T-Mobile arena.

Humans have sought entertainment since they could light a camp fire and MGM is fulfilling that need today with its lineup of shows and experiences, say ad creators McCann New York.

The TV commercial then flashes some of those MGM experiences, such as acrobats swinging in the air, dancers performing on stage, sparks jumping out of champagne bottles and confetti falling onto a crowded nightclub dance floor.

“Entertainment is so basic to who we are as human beings and always has been. It’s why we create art and make music and tell stories and play games,” said David Moore, senior vice president and director of brand content at McCann New York, which created the ads.

“The ancient imagery is there to illustrate that insight, and also to draw a straight line from history to what MGM is doing now: entertaining the human race in the most artful and epic way imaginable,” he also said.

The ad will run on national TV as well as cable through the end of the year. A 160-second video will be aired on social media such as YouTube. That video dedicates about 2 seconds to gaming.

Dissatisfied millennials

MGM may have cut the gaming images to appeal to younger generations that have been skipping the casino floors for the shows and nightclubs or avoiding Las Vegas altogether.

Millennials are generally dissatisfied with the traditional casino gaming experience and it’s not their primary interest when coming to Las Vegas, Joyen Vakil, senior vice president of design and development at MGM, told a travel industry conference earlier this month.

Gaming is still the goose that lays the golden egg for MGM, accounting for about 55 percent of the company’s global revenue.

However, gaming generates only about 40 percent of MGM’s revenue in Las Vegas, the company’s biggest market, and has been declining in percentage terms for years.

MGM this month filled 2,000 square feet of former casino floor space with a group virtual reality game.

“We have known for a while that more and more of the revenue is coming from the hospitality side, so it shouldn’t be shocking” that gaming is not part of the advertisement, said David Katz, a gaming analyst at Telsey Advisory Group.

MGM is not in danger of losing its loyal, baby boomer gambling base by appealing to a younger audience seeking entertainment, said David Reibstein, a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Getting Twitter feedback

In addition, the campaign will feature advertisements on traditional and digital billboards in cities where MGM has properties, such as Las Vegas, Washington D.C. and New Orleans.

They will also appear in key feeder cities like Los Angeles and New York. A 15-second animated ad will appear on a digital billboard at Times Square, the most popular tourist destination in New York City.

MGM plans to promote the campaign on social media, including extensive use of SnapChat, the photo sharing app popular with Millennials. More than 70 percent of Snapchat users are under the age of 34.

The campaign is filled with slogans that MGM likely hopes will become memorable catchphrases like ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ or Wendy’s ‘Where’s the beef?’

Among them are “We are not in the hotel business, We are in the holy sh*t business’’ and ‘The world’s leading producer of OMG.’’ The company also uses OMGM, a play on the abbreviation of ‘Oh my God’ and MGM.

The last casino to use a provocative slogan to draw attention was The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, which used “Just the right amount of wrong.”

While the slogans have received significant attention so far on Twitter, garnering about 150 retweets each in 24 hours – or about 10 times the MGM average — professors of marketing say the use of profanity in ads is risky and can easily backfire.

“Use of profanity, explicit or implied, only gets attention for a moment and is not a sustained brand communication strategy. It’s also a mistake for the parent brand MGM which is more than just a holy shit business,” said Aimee Drolet Rossi, a marketing professor at the University of California at Los Angeles specializing in branding.

“In any case, profanity no longer shocks most consumers.”

It’s Las Vegas, baby

MGM, though, may be able to get away with it “because it is Las Vegas,” said Wharton’s Reibstein.

Robert Rippee, who leads the Hospitality Lab at UNLV’s International Gaming Institute, said the young target audience must perceive the advertisement and slogans as genuine if it is too succeed.

Pepsi Co. was forced earlier this year to pull its new multi-million ad showing a young girl at a rally handing a police officer a soda can after it was deemed insensitive, triggering an uproar on social media.

“If you are not really being authentic, it has the risk of backfiring,” Rippee said about the slogans.

MGM must be prepared for a multi-year campaign if it wants succeed in branding itself as an entertainment company, said UCLA’s Drolet Rossi and Warton’s Reibstein.

It took Hyundai and Kia many years to alter its image and gain the respectability usually given to Japanese car makers, Drolet Rossi said.

“You need to be consistent with your campaign over a long period of time,” said Reibstein.

Contact Todd Prince at tprince@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0386. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
How much do Las Vegas casino CEOs make?
Las Vegas gaming CEOs made anywhere between $1 million and $24 million last year, according to company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ((Las Vegas Review-Journal)
30-year-old Rio needs a little TLC
Nearly 30 years after the Rio opened, the red and blue jewel that helped catapult Las Vegas to a new level with its buffet and nightclub has lost its status along with its shine.
The latest on the Drew Las Vegas - VIDEO
Eli Segall recounts his tour of the Drew Las Vegas, formerly the Fontainebleau, on the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinball Hall of Fame to move near south Strip
Operators of the Pinball Hall of Fame have been approved to build a new, larger arcade near the south edge of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard near Russel Road. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
National Hardware Show underway Las Vegas
The National Hardware Show kicked off Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Caesars for sale?
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has been swept up in takeover speculation since the company’s share price tumbled last year amid disappointing earnings and concerns over a recession. Amid the decline, hedge funds scooped up shares. Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn began buying shares of Caesars as early as January. Icahn acquired nearly 18 percent by mid-March. In February Icahn called on the Caesars board to study a sale as a way to boost shareholder value.
Las Vegas home prices
Las Vegas home prices grew fastest among major markets in February for the ninth straight month. But amid affordability concerns, the growth rate has slowed down. Southern Nevada prices in February were up 9.7% from a year earlier, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index. The last time Las Vegas' price growth fell below 10% was in September 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices reported.
Free Parking Coming To Wynn
Free parking will come to the Wynn and Encore resorts on May 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Founding Venetian employees talk about 20 years at the Strip resort
The Venetian, which opened May 3, 1999, is celebrating 20 years on the Las Vegas Strip. Seven original employees talk about opening the luxury resort and working there for two decades. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Circa aiming for December 2020 opening
The 1.25-million-square-foot property will have 44-stories and 777-rooms. It will also have a separate nine-story, 1,201-space parking garage.
Boxabl official explains the building concept
Boxabl business development manager Galiano Tiramani shows off a room built by his company. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TI/Mirage Tram reopens
The tram that shuttles guests between TI and Mirage reopened this week after being closed for much of 2018.
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion taking shape
Renderings and actual footage show how the Las Vegas Convention Center is evolving.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at Las Vegas convention
Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz spoke at the Epicor Insights user conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Drew Las Vegas to open in the second quarter of 2022
The 67-story Drew Las Vegas is slated to open in the second quarter of 2022 at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAB Day 1 (Time Lapse)
NAB kicked off at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
National Association of Broadcasters Show shows 1mm thick 8K TV with 22.2 channel digital sound
Japan’s NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories booth featured a 1mm thick 8K TV system used in conjunction with a 22.2 channel digital sound system at the National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada shoppers react to Smith’s no longer accepting Visa credit cards
On March 1, Smith’s announced that it would no longer be accepting Visa credit cards at any of its 142 supermarkets, including the 45 in Nevada.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission asks how long Wynn executives knew about misconduct
Business reporter Rick Velotta gives an update on the adjudicatory hearing on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
Henderson app developer part of Startup in Residence
Henderson based developers of the app On Point Barricade are taking part in Startup in Residence, a North America program dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sam's Town employees and customers talk of their love for the iconic casino
Longtime Sam's Town employees and customers love each other and love their casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas apartments rents
Las Vegas’ apartment market has accelerated in recent years. Developers are packing the suburbs with projects, landlords are on a buying spree, and tenants have filled buildings.
William Boyd talks about the birth of Sam's Town
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Sam's Town, William Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming and son of hotel namesake Sam Boyd, talks about how the casino became one of the first local properties in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
High Roller observation wheel turns five
The world’s tallest observation wheel celebrates it’s fifth year on Sunday, March 31, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Escape Room Industry Growing In Las Vegas
Escapology employees discuss the growing escape room industry in the U.S. and Las Vegas. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Impact of parking fees on visiting the Las Vegas Strip
There are no data showing a relationship between Strip resort and parking fees and the number of out-of-state visitors to Las Vegas. But there are data showing a relationship between Strip parking fees and the number of local visitors to the the Strip. ‘’As a local, I find myself picking hotels I visit for dinner or entertainment, based on whether they charge for parking or not,”’ said David Perisset, the owner of Exotics Racing. ‘’It is not a matter of money, more of principle.’’ A 2018 survey by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance found 36.9 percent of Clark County residents reported avoiding parking at Strip casinos that charge for parking. 29.1 percent reported avoiding using any services from a Strip casino that charges for parking.
MGM's sports betting deals
MGM Resorts International signed a sports betting sponsorship agreement with the NBA in July It was the first professional sports league to have official ties with a legal sports betting house. The deal came just two months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law prohibiting sports betting in most states. In October, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the NHL. In November, MGM became the first gaming company to sign a sports betting partnership with the MLB. Financial terms of Tuesday’s deal and earlier partnerships have not been announced.
Faraday puts Las Vegas land on the market
Nearly two years after Faraday Future bailed on its North Las Vegas auto factory, the company has put its land up for sale. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein on running the iconic property
Kenny Epstein, owner of the El Cortez Hotel in downtown Las Vegas, talks about Jackie Gaughan mentorship and answers rumors about bodies in the basement at the mob-era casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
LVCVA recommends construction of underground people mover
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the recommendation for an underground people mover for the convention center. The system would have the potential to expand and connect Downtown and the resort corridor all the way to McCarran. (Michael Quine/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lucky Dragon’s foreign investors demand refund

The Lucky Dragon’s developers and prior management are facing lawsuits from Chinese investors, the project’s main lender and a Canadian high-roller who paid a $400,000 deposit to lease the casino just one month before it abruptly closed.