Sin City's Hot Spots and Marketers Helped Finance Three Episodes

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LOS ANGELES -- The stars of Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” -- otherwise known as the Fab Five -- are no strangers to brand integration, having already revamped the closets, dinner parties and homes of their style-starved victims with everything from Adidas, Diesel and Ben Sherman to Philips Electronics, Crate & Barrel and Amaretto DiSorrano.
The Fab Five head to Las Vegas with a marrying couple, and help rework a few others, including a performer whose dog is an Elvis impersonator.

Now, the boys themselves will be integrated into a brand.

Three-episode story arc

For the fourth season launch of the once-white-hot show, “Queer Eye” will be steeped in the city of Las Vegas, using Sin City as much more than a backdrop for a three-episode story arc.

The move is the next strategic step after the award-winning, often-quoted ad campaign “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” drove tourism and re-energized the city.

Executives at R&R Partners, the ad agency that created the campaign for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said they wanted to start educating consumers about what the city has to offer in shopping, restaurants, nightlife, spas and golfing -- not just gambling.

“We’re trying to raise consumers’ Vegas IQ,” said Billy Vassiliadis, CEO at R&R Partners. “We want to do that by using the power of this brand and leveraging with other brands that are consistent with our message.”

A legitimate brand

Las Vegas has been able to legitimately call itself a brand since last year, when Landor Associates’ Newsmaker Brands survey found that it was among the top brands. Its fifth-place finish in 2005 is expected to rise to fourth place this year. The distinction is in addition to the hefty media buying and the tagline that’s forever seared Vegas into the popular consciousness.

"Queer Eye" is produced by Scout Productions, and Tina Elmo, Scout's VP of product integrations, partnerships and promotion, worked on integrating the Las Vegas locations and brands into the new season.

R&R Partners executives worked with Mark Stroman, partner at Entertainment Marketing Partners, to showcase Vegas on TV in a way that went beyond wallpaper.

Among the Vegas hot spots that will get “Queer Eye” screen time are Harrah’s, Caesar’s Palace and the Forum Shops, Bally’s, Rio, Paris, the Palms, Silverton Hotel and Casino, Todd English’s Olives restaurant, the World Market Center, Cristophe salon and Aureole restaurant. Travelocity also participated in the episodes.

The story arc actually begins in New York, where the Fab Five meet a couple who decide to elope to Vegas. Once there, the guys find additional candidates to rework. One is a professional poker player, and the other is a performer whose dog is an Elvis impersonator.

The style mavens will take the marrying couple on a spree at the Forum Shops and hit the World Market Center, a 200,000-square-foot design center where Thom Filicia will pick out furniture.

“The ‘Queer Eye’ guys specialize in fashion and fine dining and all the areas that we’re emphasizing,” Mr. Stroman said. “There was really no better way to evolve the campaign and let people know exactly what was going on in Vegas.”

Marketers helped finance show

The Vegas convention board and the marketers placed in the show helped finance the episodes, supplying product, hotel rooms, meals and other services during the month-long shoot. The “Queer Eye” integration is one of a number of deals that fall in line with the convention board’s promotional strategy, said Rob O’Keefe, R&R Partners’ group account director. The agency is also co-producing vignettes and entertainment pieces for a number of cable channels and other outlets.

Some of those are now airing on E!, the Travel Channel and Fox Sports' “Best Damn Sports Show.” There are talks about expanding those vignettes and looking for more places, like syndicated entertainment shows, to air new content, Mr. O’Keefe said.

Though the makeover genre has cooled in general and “Queer Eye’s” ratings have dropped since its breakthrough first season, the network remains committed to the Emmy-winning series.

The show has traveled on occasion, hitting London, Miami and Dallas. For the season launch last summer, the show’s fashion and style mavens went to work on some members of the Boston Red Sox.

“We certainly believe in this show,” said Jason Klarman, Bravo’s senior VP-marketing and brand strategy. “It’s bigger than the genre.”

The trip to Vegas shows that there’s a "fresh creative perspective," Mr. Klarman said. “It’s ‘Queer Eye’ in the big tent. It’s the center of American entertainment.”
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