'What Happens Here' Campaign Returns Three Months After Vegas Shooting

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"What Happens Here Stays Here" is back on the air. The long-running whimsical campaign promoting Las Vegas tourism is running nationally again after taking a three-month hiatus in the wake of the Oct. 1 massacre in which a gunman killed 58 people and wounded hundreds at an outdoor music festival along the Strip.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority immediately pulled the campaign in the wake of the massacre, deemed the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. In its place the authority and its agency, R&R Partners, ran the somber-themed "VegasStrong" effort that sought to rally moral support for the Strip as it mourned.

But with the start of the new year, Vegas is reclaiming its mischievous mystique with a new spot under the classic tagline that debuted in 2003. The spot shows a man leaping from the 1890s to 2018 via a time machine. After he gets his fill of partying, he zooms back to the 1890s, umbrella drink in hand. But he lies when his colleagues asked if the time travel worked.

The ad debuts as the city braces itself for a huge influx of visitors, just days before the onset of the Consumer Electronics Show, one of the biggest conferences held in Vegas every year. Last year CES drew 184,279 attendees, most from out of town.

R&R Partners had considered coming back with something a bit less whimsical. The agency tested ads that were more inspirational with an empowerment theme and a manifesto approach, says Arnie DiGeorge, R&R's executive creative director. But "consumers liked the way we had been and didn't like the way we were going to go with it as much," he says. "They've really gotten used to our voice and they thought the stuff we were bringing them just wasn't exciting."

The new ad was actually produced before the shooting but it never aired. Now the spot is running nationally on networks including Travel Channel, Food Network, USA, TNT, BET and E!, as well as online.

The ad comes as Vegas draws fewer visitors than a year ago. Visitor volume was down 1.6 percent in the first 11 months of 2017, compared to the previous year, according to figures from the visitors authority. Volume fell more sharply in the two months after the shooting, with October down 4.2 percent and November off 3.7 percent. That compares with losses of 2 percent in August and 2.5 percent in September. The last positive month was in May.

The shooting "did have a near-term impact," says Kevin Bagger, executive director of the visitor authority's research center. But he pinned most of the yearly decline on fewer room availability due to renovations and upgrades at several properties on the Strip. Indeed, hotel occupancy, which measures the percentage of rooms filled, stood at 91.3% in the first 11 months of 2017. That is down just 0.3 percent from 2016.

"Most recent research is showing that a lot of consumers realize as tragic as the [shooting] was, it was unusual. It was an anomaly from an insane individual with an unknown motive," Bagger says. "But it's not something that is shading the long-term perception of Las Vegas."

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