Marketing captures Las Vegas experiences

Hey, look who was in a recent Entertainment Weekly: the Blue Men, the Vegas Phantom and one of those kooky guys from “O.”

Not that the magazine wrote about them. The Vegas stars were depicted in an ad paid for by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. But you won’t hear show producers complaining.

Some of those in charge of selling tickets on the Strip had long voiced concerns that the Convention Authority’s famous “What happens here” campaign came with a price. Were the TV spots so successful that they left the ticketed shows behind? A few even argued the spots subliminally undermined the shows: Why waste time seeing Danny Gans when you could be seducing the pool boy?

“It doesn’t mean it wasn’t brilliant, but it wasn’t perfect for every single business in town,” says Jennifer Dunne. She now handles marketing for Wynn Las Vegas, but worked for Cirque du Soleil when she lobbied to get the shows restored to a more prominent role in the city’s collective marketing.

Now comes the “Your Vegas Is Showing” branding campaign. It includes a funny TV spot with scenes from “Ka” and “Zumanity,” as well as the print ad showing the Phantom and friends trapped in mason jars on a Las Vegas balcony. A little oblique, perhaps, unless you grew up watching creature features of “The Bride of Frankenstein,” with Dr. Pretorius’s collection of little bottle people.

See, someone is collecting Las Vegas experiences. At least that’s the way it was explained to me.

Regardless, the ad conveys the collective clout of three top-shelf entertainment choices. Rob O’Keefe, group account director for R&R Partners, downplays the firm’s ad as a direct response to complaints of neglect. “Shows and entertainment are always a key component in the marketing mix,” he says.

The difference, O’Keefe explains, is that larger “branding” campaigns are one thing, while specific shows and attractions are usually reserved for “supplementary product campaigns.”

The print ad has an extra layer of irony. Both “Phantom” and the Blue Man Group are at The Venetian, where head honcho Sheldon Adelson disdains the convention authority and supports diverting some of its funding for transportation upgrades. Why favor those shows? “The issues taking place in town don’t have a lot of play in how we represent the destination,” O’Keefe says.

Besides, The Venetian is more landlord than active investor in both productions.

And at any rate, all glory is fleeting. The “Vegas is showing” campaign is being dialed down in favor of new ads responding more to the immediate economic crunch.

Sigh. You don’t have to tell show people that a moment in the spotlight doesn’t last forever.

Mike Weatherford’s entertainment column appears Thursdays and Sundays. Contact him at 383-0288 or e-mail him at

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