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What's Behind the Mr. LasVegasDotCom Campaign?

Sin City Aims to Lure Persuaders to E-Commerce Site With Trip Planner; 'What Happens Here' Stays

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The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has launched a $20 million ad campaign aimed at "persuaders" -- 40 million casual travelers who might be considering a trip to Sin City but feel overwhelmed by everything Vegas has to offer.

The campaign, via longtime Las Vegas-based agency R&R Partners, rebrands its former visitlasvegas.com website into simply LasVegas.com and offers travelers a one-stop shop to book flights, hotels, shows and more.

The national campaign includes TV, internet, outdoor and social-media elements on Facebook and Twitter, features a middle-aged man aptly named Mr. LasVegasDotCom besieged by people asking for show tickets, backstage passes and more.

Mr. LasVegasDotCom
Mr. LasVegasDotCom

Las Vegas is only now beginning to emerge from the downturn in the economy. For the fiscal year ended October 2012, Las Vegas gambling revenues were up 7.4% to $2.1 billion compared with fiscal 2011, according to the Nevada State Gaming Commission. That's also up from $1.8 billion in 2009, but short of the pre-downturn mark of $2.3 billion in 2007.

Some 38.9 million people visited Las Vegas in 2011 according to the visitors' authority; 2012 figures were available only through October -- on par with the 39.1 million tourists who visited the city in 2007.

Ad Age spoke with Rob Dondero, exec VP of R&R Partners and the lead executive on the account, about the campaign.

This month is the 10th anniversary of "What Happens Here, Stays Here." So is this Mr. LasVegasDotCom campaign replacing that ?

Mr. Dondero: "What Happens Here" is not going away. Adult freedom is the backbone of Las Vegas, and we will never extract that from the brand. In fact, "What Happens Here" still tests wildly popular with our core audience. We're going to spend the next year two quarters ramping up the website, but we're going to come back with some new "What Happens" stuff later this year.

So what is the goal?

Mr. Dondero: We've been doing a lot of research with our consumers and over the past 12 to eight months they've been telling us, "'I want to go to Vegas but it's intimidating." We call them "persuaders." People come to Las Vegas to gamble, to see shows, to shop. But the casual traveler has to be persuaded, and you have to make it easy for them.

How are they intimidated?

Mr. Dondero: Consumers were telling us the city is so big, with so many things, that they were afraid of getting out of control and not being able to plan their trip. They didn't have up-to-date information, or were looking in different places for it. They were intimidated by the trip. They said "If you could give me one website on how to make an itinerary, how to plan my trip, that would be a great asset." The genesis started there. And then the hotels said it would be great to have a website where we can bundle our assets from air, to travel to tickets to nightclub information. … The destination has never had an e-commerce site. That's the exciting thing for us. This is the first time we've had e-commerce. We've always been such a strong entity on branding.

What else did you run across in the research?

Mr. Dondero: You will never take gaming away from Las Vegas or the consumer. But we've done our best to promote all the other things you can do. The hotels have invested monies in nightclubs, dayclubs, shopping, restaurants for the foodies, first-class shows, and this is what the consumer wants. They want to eat where Mario Batali cooks, where Wolfgang Puck cooks.

What iterations did you go through before coming up with Mr. LasVegasDotCom?

Mr. Dondero: We tested a number of different ideas about driving people to the website. This campaign is not about Las Vegas, per se. It's about getting people to go to the website. We had a few creative ideas, and we had focus groups in Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles and Dallas. We found that Mr. Las Vegas broke through the clutter.

So is Las Vegas back from its economic woes?

Mr. Dondero: I would say the city is making steady improvement. It's not giant leaps like we might have seen in the past. We're still fighting through some downturns. But we're 3% to 4% on room occupancy, the average spend is up, the daily room rate is up slightly … It's getting back there, yeah.

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