Selling Sin City: Latest Vegas TV Spots Do It Brilliantly

Hyping Product Benefits as Well as Bacchanalian Charm

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What happens in AdReview stays in AdReview.

That's unfortunate, because every so often, AdReview is a little bit ... uh ... wrong ... and the mistake lives on in digital perpetuity.

The rare error
This is true of both the rare fact error (sorry, but didn't you think Jean-Luc Godard was dead?) and the even rarer error of judgment -- you know, like saying the original Saturn campaign (two and a half stars) was too self-effacing, and that "Just Do It" (three stars) was a bit harsh, and Reebok's mega-failure UBU (four stars) was a work of genius.

This sort of thing has happened maybe 25 times. Now, over two decades, the marketplace has upheld us 97.5% of the time, but every blunder still makes us cringe, and maybe none so much as the 3-year-old Las Vegas tourism campaign, which we greeted back in 2003 with a paltry two stars. Since then, the tagline has become part of the national vernacular, and Vegas tourism has boomed.

Sinful and dangerous
To be fair to ourselves, we liked the strategy of portraying Vegas as enticingly sinful and dangerous. Our gripe was that the original pool of ads -- including one about a Shriner who goes missing -- made the place look frighteningly sinful and dangerous to the middle-American target audience. The Shriner spot disappeared and subsequent spots were a bit tamer. But let's face it: The two stars we awarded R&R Partners, Las Vegas, were one and half stars too few.

So now, with Las Vegas' boom times apparently on the wane, comes the same agency's successor campaign.
Engage Garfield directly in his new blog.
Engage Garfield directly in his new blog.

And it stinks.

Ha ha! Kidding! It's really quite good. The venue has changed. The emphasis on sanctioned impropriety is far less evident. But the arch sensibility remains and -- as a bonus -- suddenly we see actual product benefits. (For the record, we don't consider a drunken commercial-chapel wedding to an adolescent stud muffin, as dramatized in the first pool of spots, to be a bona fide benefit.)

New spots
In one of two new spots, a guy is at the gym when a pal asks what he did in Vegas.

"I saw some shows."


"Yeah, I saw 'The Producers' ... I like shows. That's kind of my thing."

The friend, of course, reacts as if he's horrified to be the recipient of this information. Then come consecutive title cards:



Avoiding the sorid truth
Left ambiguous is whether Mr. Footlights is in fact an embarrassment to his gender or whether he's just vamping to avoid the sordid truth. Either way, it's funny, and either way, we are informed about Las Vegas' fabulous Broadway shows. But the second spot is even better. It features a guy running into a woman friend at the supermarket. She asks him where he's been.

"You know, I've been around. ... I was in Vegas."

"Oh! What did you do there?"

"I ate. Went to restaurants. Bradley Ogden. Delmonico. I'm a ... I'm a bit of a 'foodie."'

His delivery is just hilariously unconvincing, especially since his shopping cart contains only soda pop, cheese puffs, spray cheese, cupcakes and popsicles. Then the "OUR WORLD-CLASS DINING" card, and the "alibi" one next. No ambiguity here. This guy not only didn't do any fine dining, he may actually have killed the Shriner.

How not to love this stuff? Vegas is overbuilt at the moment and facing stiff competition from the Indian tribes our forebears somehow forgot to slaughter, but this reminds us that it isn't just any gambling destination.

It also reminds us not to overly obsess about our 2.5% failure rate. Paying off at 97.5%, this column is still one of the loosest slots in town.

~ ~ ~
Review: 3.5 stars
Ad: Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority
Agency: R&R Partners
Location: Las Vegas