New advertising from J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, tries to move Bermuda past its reputation as just a luscious tropical oasis.
The $15 million campaign, which begins this week in five key Eastern markets, highlights the island nation's other attributes. Churches, museums, jazz and, even, the Bermuda Triangle take center stage in print ads and TV spots.
For instance, one TV commercial features the longtail, a bird that flies thousands of miles to its mating habitat in Bermuda. The kicker: "Luckily, humans can fly here in an hour and a half."
Travelers tend to lump Bermuda in with Caribbean destinations, the Bahamas or Mexico, said David Smith, group creative director and senior partner at JWT. The former British colony tends to come up short, because it's more expensive than its tropical counterparts.
OFF RADAR SCREEN
"Bermuda has disappeared from the radar screen over the past few years," he said.
About 500,000 tourists visited the Bahamas in 1998, about the same as in '97. The number of air travelers, however, is steadily dropping.
Air travel to Bermuda has declined about 7% over the past decade. Just in the last two years, flights to the island have declined by 5%, according to figures from the Department of Tourism.
Hotel occupancy rates also are in a slump. The Bermuda Hotel Association reported a peak occupancy rate of 74% in 1980, which had slid to 60% by '98.
The campaign attempts to re-introduce Bermuda to travelers, said Michael Hart, also group creative director-senior partner at JWT.
"We're not stopping at the beach, but instead talking about culture, architecture, and other aspects -- along with talking about the beach and golfing and scuba diving," he said.
The "Out of the blue"-themed effort began last weekend with retail print ads in newspapers, and radio. TV spots break this week and the print advertising breaks in magazines in July.
The campaign eventually will include six TV spots, seven radio spots, seven newspaper ads and as many as 20 magazine ads. But the buys are being concentrated in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, New York and Philadelphia.
"As our media planner said, these are targeted rifle shots, as opposed to a bomb going off and just hoping you'll hit something," Mr. Smith said.
The agency also is forsaking demographic buys, instead concentrating on people's affinities, such as scuba divers and romantics.
Gary Phillips, director of tourism for the Bermuda Department of Tourism, said the election of a new government started a rejuvenation and excitement about Bermuda that was the catalyst for the advertising.
"What the new positioning is meant to do over time is try and show the beautiful mosaic of people as well as the experience, history, architecture and so forth," he said. "Bermuda is known, but the perception about Bermuda is outdated."
Interestingly, once the print work was finished, the Department of Tourism held a gallery show to let average citizens on the small island, which sits about 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina, vote for the ads that best reflected the real Bermuda. The winners are the ones JWT will run.
Islanders had other input, too. Mr. Hart said, laughing: "In just talking to the