Host cities cash in on conventions

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Boston and New York are marketing full tilt to snare the $400 million expected to be spent during the Democratic and Republican conventions in the two cities.

Recognizing the PR value of political opinion leaders, including governors, congressmen, senators and foreign ambassadors flocking to this ultimate media circus-15,000 Fourth Estaters will be in Boston-the cities are looking to cash in. Both are running public service ad campaigns aimed at their citizenry to reinforce local pride and friendliness and have rolled out everything from concierge programs to expanded Web sites, parties and tips to promote local sights and activities.

"We see tremendous media value in the convention," said Paul Sacco, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. "We certainly recognize the value of the delegates. It's a wonderful piece of business."

Boston projects this week's convention will generate from $120 million to $154 million in extra income. Although New York anticipates fewer visitors because much of the media is based there, the city still expects to generate $240 million to $265 million.

Boston 2004, the host committee for the Democrats, tapped two Beantown ad agencies to launch a "Celebrate Boston 2004" ad campaign. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Hill Holliday Connors Cosmopoulos drafted the strategy, logo and "Nothing Conventional About It" tagline for the convention. Havas' Arnold Worldwide produced the ads, which began running in July, that humorously highlight Boston's uniqueness.

140 languages

"Mapping the human genome? Easy. Mapping downtown? That's another story," reads one of the print ads. Another notes the number of languages spoken in Boston, adding, "So theoretically there are 140 ways to say, 'Wicked awesome.'"

"The idea was to get people in Boston excited about the city as a great convention gets to town," said Arnold Chairman-CEO Ed Eskandarian. "It wasn't so much to build tourism but to promote the city and celebrate over a month something that is such a big thing in a city's life."

Hill Holliday also created a 7-minute DVD that presents the city and includes Conan O'Brien and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. It will be included in a giveaway bag for delegates and will also air as the introduction of Mayor Thomas M. Menino's convention speech at the Democratic convention tonight. Besides the graphics for the committee, the agency also designed the media guide and similar products for delegates.

In late April, New York began seeking convention volunteers using tongue-in-cheek creative, with one TV ad featuring former Mayor Ed Koch (a Democrat) highlighting things that supposedly make New York different, such as alternate side of the street parking and pizza by the slice. Though some might say the ads actually highlight how little New Yorkers know about the country, they were effective-the committee attracted double the number of volunteers sought.

NYC 2004 joined with the NYC & Co. for a "Come early, stay late" effort on its Web site tailored to out-of-town conventioneers.

Later matinees

New York is going so far as to break Broadway tradition. On Aug. 29, the day before the convention begins, the Great White Way will postpone its Sunday matinee start until 4 p.m. to accommodate travelers and will give all the delegates free tickets.

The NYC 2004 Host Committee also has programs ranging from concierge services for journalists to special tours and theme days. Monday is fashion and retail day; Tuesday, sports and parks (batting practice in Shea Stadium will be offered to delegates); Wednesday, entertainment and culture; and Thursday history.

Marketers, too, are gearing up in force. General Motors Corp. will shuttle delegates around Boston in special natural-gas buses. Volkswagen will team with Comedy Central's "Indecision 2004" in the city to feature specially wrapped vehicles, and more activities are expected from Democratic National Committee's official convention sponsors Nextel, United Airlines, US Airways and Microsoft.

Beantown welcome:

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the shape of donkeys (the Republicans get elephants)

Packs of red, white and blue M&M's from Mars, which returned the colors for the convention

New products from Ocean Spray

Razors from Gillette Co.

Cookies from local favorite Dancing Deer

All are packaged in a navy and khaki bag from New Balance.

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