By Published on .

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.-America's renewed love affair with the Old West has caught this tourist mecca with its chaps off.

Despite 33 years of claiming to be "The West's most Western town," Scottsdale officials fear visitors coming here to see red-eye swilling wranglers with spurs on their boots are instead finding too many daiquiri-sipping executives in golf spikes.

"We feel we have backed too far away from the Western image in trying to be the sophisticated Southwest," said Rick Wetzel, tourism development coordinator for the city. "We are selling Scottsdale on the basis of it being a shopping, arts and golf mecca and tended to forget what brought us to the ball."

For six years, the city's campaign theme has been "Scottsdale. For the sunshine of your life," handled by Moses Anshell, Phoenix. The $750,000 effort targets leisure travelers, promoting the suburb as an upscale tourist destination.

"From our research, we found that people have a very solid perception that they are going to see a desert oasis, a unique environment and a Southwest culture that includes cowboys in Scottsdale," Mr. Wetzel said. "When they come, they stay in a nice resort, get a lot of sun and golf, but there is a certain amount of concern that we aren't fulfilling the expectations of visitors looking for the Western experience."

To resolve that problem, Scottsdale has hired the K Group, Phoenix, to inventory existing Western-theme events, identify the types of attractions it lacks and create a strategy to lure or create such events. The city allocated $30,000 for the two-month project.

"We've tended to look down our nose at the cowboy image, but there is strong romance with the West, particularly the 1880s ... We need to recapture it for our guests," Mr. Wetzel said.

But one adman isn't convinced the six-shooter should completely replace the six iron as the image for the posh Phoenix suburb of 130,000.

"Scottsdale is a resort destination for sophisticated and upscale travelers," said Louis Moses, creative director for Moses Anshell, which also handles the Arizona Office of Tourism. "Golf, shopping, the arts and the scenery are all part of what the traveler wants. The cowboy image is just one part of it and no more important than the others."

Mr. Moses, however, said he doesn't believe the Western image should be ignored.

Scottsdale wasn't alone in its attempts to scrub off the cowboy image through advertising in years past. In the 1980s, the Arizona Office of Tourism made a pointed effort to debunk what it felt were misconceptions by leisure travelers that the state was a backwater place with no paved roads, where people took siestas each afternoon.

Taylor Advertising, Tucson, tried to dispel the state's Old West image with a 1987 campaign themed "Arizona. If you knew it you'd do it," said Jay Taylor, president.

"Arizona was misunderstood by the tourist as a place with nothing but locoweed and sand," he said.

Mr. Taylor took direct aim at that with the "myth/reality" ads that juxtaposed images of Old West cowboys and lines such as "If you come to Arizona bring your bedroll and beef jerky" beside pictures of fine resorts and magnificent scenery.

Similarly, the Phoenix Convention & Visitor's Bureau addressed what it thought was a perception of lack of refinement when it unveiled the "From cowtown to wowtown" campaign in 1988 from Rosenfeld, Sirowitz, Humphrey & Strauss, Phoenix.

Most Popular
In this article: