Big Push Invites Tourists to Big Apple

$30 Million Effort Declares 'This Is New York City' -- but Is It?

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Yankee Stadium turns into massive slices of pepperoni pizza, the Flatiron building is topped with whipped cream and a cherry, and hot-dog blimps fly in blue skies where the only clouds whirl right out of Van Gogh's "Starry Night." Oh, and if you wave at the Statue of Liberty, she waves back at you.
So, is this New York?
So, is this New York?

Welcome to the whimsical world of New York, as painted by NYC & Co., the city's marketing and tourism organization. The city is aiming to attract 50 million tourists annually with the help of the $30 million global marketing push, which breaks today.

Dubbed "This Is New York City," the campaign is the work of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the agency of record (ironically, a British agency partly owned by French holding company Publicis Groupe), and is part of an ongoing effort to reach Mayor Michael Bloomberg's goal to boost tourism levels by 2015. The Big Apple last year drew 43.8 million visitors, according to NYC & Co.

Skeptical reaction?
But at least in New York, the ads may get a skeptical reaction, because they trade what the city is really about --- things like rich ethnic enclaves, impromptu street performers and that signature New York attitude -- for "Yellow Submarine"-like animation. The centerpiece of the campaign is a TV spot set to a remixed Ella Fitzgerald tune. Blending true-life images with animation, viewers are taken on a taxi ride through the boroughs akin to a kiddie ride at Disneyland.

The spot is airing on the History Channel nationally, plus additional channels in Boston and Philadelphia. Abroad it will air in France, Ireland, Spain and the U.K. An outdoor component will roll out in U.S. cities and in Brazil, Italy, Portugal and Spain, while a set of print ads will appear in newspapers and magazines in Ireland, South Africa, Germany and the U.K. An online component places interactive banner ads on Google, Expedia and YouTube, among others.

The print push plugs certain brands, such as retailers Macy's, Bloomingdale's and J&R, restaurants Le Cirque and Peter Luger, and theatrical shows "Avenue Q" and "Blue Man Group."

Facing increased competition
NYC & Co. says a big, integrated push is necessary to promote New York as the tourism sector faces increased competition. "The competition in the global tourism industry is fierce," NYC & Co. Chairman Jonathan M. Tisch said in a statement. "Negative perceptions of the United States around the world, compounded by the lack of a coordinated national marketing effort, are only making things worse."

Whether or not foreign visitors are drawn to the city by the campaign remains to be seen, but it's a safe bet New Yorkers will be hard-pressed to buy it.
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