OKLAHOMA TENDS TO IMAGE TOURISM OFFICIALS, AD AGENCIES FACED WITH A DELICATE TASK

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Oklahoma tourism officials are facing the delicate challenge of trying to figure out how to promote their state while remaining sensitive to the daily news stories of bodies being removed from the bombed federal building.

The state Tourism & Recreation Department pulled its TV effort on April 19, the day of the Oklahoma City bombing, out of the 10 markets where it was running, said Travel & Tourism Director Kathleen Marks. The 30-second spot from Ackerman McQueen, Oklahoma City, focused on the scenic aspects of Oklahoma such as lakes, museums, historic re-enactments and historic towns. "Oklahoma: Native America" was the theme, with the sub-theme, "America in its Native State."

Tourism officials, the mayor, the governor and the chamber of commerce planned to meet today to discuss how to handle advertising.

Ms. Marks and Ackerman Senior VP-Management Supervisor Barbara Johnston both said ads thanking people for their help during the crisis would be a possibility.

Ms. Marks said she was optimistic that the bombing wouldn't affect oerall tourism to the state's main attractions such as the Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Remington Park race track in Oklahoma City or the National Heritage Center in Tulsa.

But a major tourism event is already a casualty of the bombing. The city's annual five-day Festival of the Arts, which was to have started April 25, was canceled.

According to festival PR Director Christine Dillon, the free-to-the-public event annually draws 700,000 people from across the nation.

Last year, 4.8 million tourists spent at least one night in Oklahoma. Before the bombing, Ms. Marks said the expected increase for 1995 was 3% to 5%.

Ironically, the Oklahoma City Advertising Club had heard a proposal from Ackerman founder and Chairman Emeritus Ray Ackerman two weeks before the bombing. Mr. Ackerman suggested the advertising experts in the club pool their resources and do pro bono marketing work for Oklahoma City on an ongoing basis.

He suggested using the theme "It's a wonderful life."

"Whoever taught Texans to brag did a great job," he said. "We are just the opposite. We lack the self pride and I want to change that."

Mr. Ackerman said he wouldn't change the message even today. Ron Erdmann, analyst for the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration in Washington, said Oklahoma isn't a magnet for international travelers. But he noted more international visitors are going to the interior of the U.S. to get away from crowded cities.

"In this case, it depends on how much press they get," said Mr. Erdmann. "The more press, the more perception that the U.S. is unsafe anywhere.'

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