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Palace Resorts puts meeting planners in the director’s chair

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Palace Resorts, a company that operates resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean, wanted to educate meeting planners about the reopening of two of its recently renovated resorts and the grand opening of a new property—all of which offer all-inclusive meetings facilities. To grab the attention of customers and prospects while updating them on the resorts, Palace last month introduced The Meeting Planner—Make Your Own Movie contest.

The campaign targets about 10,000 meeting planners, including approximately 6,000 in Palace Resorts' in-house database; it also targets a Primedia database of meeting planners and a Performance Media database of travel agents who plan group travel. They will receive a series of e-mails driving them to www.themeetingplannermovie.com, where they can create their own movie while learning about Palace Resorts' all-inclusive meetings programs.

Maira Briceno, director of marketing at Palace Resorts, said the goal of the campaign was to make the company stand out in meeting planners' minds. "We didn't want to do the typical thing that everybody does—direct mail pieces or print ads," she said. "Meeting planners are in front of the computer, like everybody else, for long hours every day, so [we decided to] use that as a way to reach them and make it fun at the same time."

Three `acts' over three months

The campaign will include three "acts" over a three-month period. Act one, which debuted July 17, features a day in the life of a meeting planner and allows visitors to string together scenes to create the beginning of their three-part film. Visitors can then save their work and be automatically entered into a drawing for prizes and a chance at a grand prize of a five-night, all-expenses-paid trip to any Palace Resorts property. Acts two and three debut this month and next, and will address the topography and amenities of Palace Resorts as well as highlight meetings offerings at individual properties.

Visitors may choose from several preshot scenes, which depict the experiences of a veteran meeting planner and her rookie sidekick as they visit a Palace Resort. "What we in essence did was shoot almost a full-length movie, which is incredible in itself," said Samantha Aberle, senior account manager at the Meridian Group, Palace Resorts' marketing agency. "A lot of the scenes we shot were based on true stories we'd read on blogs and heard from Palace's clients—obstacles that meeting planners encounter on a day-to-day basis. Ultimately, [the movie scenes] show how, even though you face these obstacles, Palace Resorts can make the meeting successful."

Aberle said the videos are coded so users can easily post them to sites such as YouTube and MySpace. Movies also include a "forward to a friend" link.

Strong results for video

Preliminary results of the first phase of the campaign are strong, Aberle said: The e-mail sent July 17, which went to Palace's database of about 6,000 people, had a 19.4% click-through rate. By about a week after that first e-mail, the site had had about 1,200 visits, 83 people had registered and 69 had created videos, she said. The most-viewed video had more than 2,000 views, Aberle added.

Aberle said the secret to reaching meeting planners is to communicate your message in an innovative and entertaining way. "The key is really relating to the audience—communicating that we really understand what they're going through day to day—rather than speaking to them," she said.

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