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Digital age presents new meaning for Las Vegas’ slogan

Updated December 31, 2019 - 6:38 pm

When Las Vegas first unveiled its “What Happens Here, Stays Here” slogan in 2003, it was much easier for tourists to keep their trip under wraps.

Today, it’s a different story. The majority of visitors come with smart phones equipped with social media apps like Twitter and Facebook, which means sharing a photo or video from the Strip or a casino takes only seconds.

Even so, many believe the slogan remains relevant in today’s digital age, even if it means something different for younger generations.

“It still resonates because it’s part of the (Las Vegas) culture,” said Billy Vassiliadis, CEO of R&R Partners, the advertising company that created the slogan with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “In the best case, the slogan is the icon (of Las Vegas). In the worst case, it’s memorable, even if it may not be totally applicable to a younger generation.”

Generational differences

Vassiliadis said the slogan is interpreted differently by each generation. Baby Boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — tend to take the slogan more literally, while Gen Xers — those born between 1965 and 1980 — are more comfortable sharing their Las Vegas experiences online. According to Pew Research, 76 percent of Gen Xers used social media in 2019, while only 59 percent of Baby Boomers can say the same.

Meanwhile, millennials — those born between 1981 and 1996 — enjoy the slogan but don’t view it as a rule to follow, according to Vassiliadis.

“The slogan is not taken as literally by the millennial generation,” he said. “They understand that here, it’s their choice to share.”

No matter the age, David Schwartz, professor and gaming historian for UNLV’s libraries, said the slogan’s efforts to showcase Las Vegas as a fun, accepting destination still hold true.

“It’s not necessarily that people won’t find out what you did, but won’t judge what you did,” he said. “People publicize themselves a lot more now … (but the slogan is) still appropriate.”

Anthony Lucas, a professor of casino management at UNLV, believes the slogan can still make sense in the digital age.

“The two can coexist because … it’s tongue-in-cheek,” he said. “They know people will tell stories, but they’re trying to promote this idea of reckless abandonment.”

‘What happens here’

Vassiliadis said even if technology has shifted people’s perception of the slogan, the first half is still as relevant as ever.

“That’s the more important part of this slogan,” he said. “What happens here is a unique experience. … This is the only place that … allows you to fully be yourself, where there aren’t obligations or expectations.”

It’s been speculated that the city is getting ready to upgrade its mantra to “What Happens Here Only Happens Here.” Social media posts from the likes of Aerosmith and Shania Twain have alluded to the rollout of the new slogan on Jan. 26, but Vassiliadis did not confirm such plans. A LVCVA representative did not return a request for comment.

Lucas said it would be natural for the city to want to evolve its slogan.

“If you hang on too long, it appears dated,” he said. “(The possible change) seems to a be a little more in step with digital age.”

No matter what campaigns Las Vegas runs — be it “What happens here” or contextual campaigns like 2018’s “Only Vegas Moments,” Vassiliadis said the city will continue promoting adult freedom.

“The essence of all of our work is adult freedom,” he said. “The right to choose your experience and experience the freedom you want. … ‘What happens here’ encapsulates that.”

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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