Not long ago, Las Vegas was billing itself as a family destination, where Mom and Dad could go to floorshows and gamble, and the kids could swim and see actors dressed up like Barbary pirates. Sights! Sounds! Circus Circus! Wholesome fun!
The new pitch: copulation with strangers!
A campaign from (the archly named) R&R Advertising, Las Vegas, for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association, pretty much ditches the Disney of the Desert angle in favor of drunken debauchery and degradation. It may be the most truthful series of TV commercials in the history of advertising.
"What happens here, stays here," is the new tagline, a stunning invitation to licentiousness for the hordes of God-fearing Middle Americans who populate Sin City on any given day.
One spot shows a slightly frumpy 30-something conventioneer who winds up in a wedding chapel married to a 19-year-old stud. Another shows a sultry, orgasm-drunk woman transforming back to her prim, businesswoman persona on the way back to the airport. And another shows a car full of young ladies heading out of town, all making fun of the driver, who has apparently slept with a juggler the age of her father.
Well, OK. Let's face it, Las Vegas is not about family values-unless your family values random sex acts with casino entertainers, or ol' Dad maxing out the MasterCard and drinking till wobbly while making goo-goo eyes at a frowsy cocktail waitress. So it would probably be hypocritical to complain about advertising that, for once, dares call a thing by its name.
The question is whether that's smart. The primary audience for this resort, once again, isn't the godless jet set, nor even the young urban women these ads seem most to target. It's the upright, salt-of-the-earth, polyester-clad red-county crowd, people who are choosing between Vegas and Branson. If you tell them that Vegas is the home of legal slot machines and Siegfried & Roy, they will come ... with maybe some visions of naughtiness in the back of their minds. If you focus on the culture of immorality, though, they will not come-because their family and neighbors will disapprove.
Pounding the slots and getting tipsy may get you some ribbing at Rotary. Running off with a whore will not. And that's one of the spots. It shows four hung-over Shriners in a coffee shop, worried sick over their missing compatriot, who left nothing behind but a set of dentures.
"What are we gonna tell his wife?" one moans.
Yes, in the middle of the "Today" show: an ad suggesting that you can go to Vegas for the time of your life ... and never return. Did this guy run off with a floozy, or is he on next week's "CSI" as the cadaver?
It's pretty hilarious, in a gruesome sort of way. And adventure, we understand, has its allure. But the chance to vanish in thin air is not a come-on. It is an invitation to stay home.
Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Assoc.
R&R Advertising, Las Vegas
Ad Review Rating: 2 stars