Atlantic City bets on WS to boost tourism

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ: As part of an effort to reposition the Northeast's gambling mecca, the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority (ACCVA) has named Weber Shandwick its agency of record.

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ: As part of an effort to reposition the Northeast's gambling mecca, the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority (ACCVA) has named Weber Shandwick its agency of record.

The agency's task will be to spur economic development by drawing attention to Atlantic City's potential as a getaway, as the city celebrates a host of new projects, including the opening of a new ultra-luxe casino called the Borgata.

"Our primary goal with this project is to change perceptions of Atlantic City," said Sara Lind-krantz, VP of tourism and communications for the ACCVA. "We think we have a public relations problem, and the best way to attack that is to get some public relations experts in here."

This marks the first time the ACCVA has worked with a PR agency. In choosing an agency, the authority held a competitive review - described by a WS executive as "extremely thorough" - that narrowed a field of nine firms down to four finalists before it was over.

Lindkrantz said that WS won the account because of its extensive travel and tourism experience, as well as the possibilities for an integrated approach offered by the Interpublic Group's properties.

They foresee partnerships not only with sister agency The MWW Group, which has a strong presence in the Garden State, but also with Rogers & Cowan, the LA-based division of WS that focuses on entertainment marketing.

WS also plans to work with Smith O'Keefe, a local agency based just 30 miles North of Atlantic City.

WS and the ACCVA foresee a host of publicity opportunities, from placement in sitcoms and movies to events centered on beach erosion.

"PR isn't just sending out press releases," Lindkrantz said.

More immediately, the partnership will work to replace the city's hoary tagline - "America's Favorite Playground" - and develop a long-term strategy.

"What's amazing is what the misperceptions are," said Rene Mack, president of WS' travel marketing practice, in reference to market research that turned up the PR problems. "Many people haven't been there in a number of years. They haven't seen the new product - the new attractions, the new properties. And they have a very antiquated view of what Atlantic City is."

Lindkrantz said that making changes will involve winning over local business leaders who are accustomed to the old way of marketing the city.

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