Industry Watch: Taking a Gamble
Sin City sells itself online
"PUBCON attendees with badge can get free admin to LAX at Luxor. Ask for Roq at door." Then, "@VegasConcierge: Cool!" Insider info about hot clubs and freebies comes in a steady stream of tweets from VegasConcierge. This Twitter channel is at the very edge of the interactive juggernaut that is the interactive marketing program of MGM Mirage. The owner of 10 top Vegas resorts also offers a YouTube channel and a desktop widget, the Vegas Valet, which feeds news, photos, info about special events and deals from its resorts.
Each property in the MGM Mirage family has its own interactive marketing program, of course, anchored by Web sites with lots of bells and whistles. Take mandalaybay.com. Acknowledging that there are many reasons people want to travel to Las Vegas, it lets site visitors choose from one of five personae to receive targeted content and recommendations. As the audio intro tells them, "When you feel the glow, the real you shines through. Who will you be?"
"They come multiple times a year and could come for different reasons," says Robert Hoffman, director of Internet marketing pushes for Mandalay Bay. MMG Worldwide built the site and created the strategy of different paths through the content based on data from PRIZM, Axiom, and the Visitors and Convention Bureau. Flash movies and music set the mood as you "create your experience" by exploring the resort's amenities or selecting from packages or promotions.
Following a 2007 remodel of the rooms and expansion of the beach at Mandalay Bay, the site added virtual reality tours produced by Motionvr. This high-end, proprietary service involves shooting a series of high-resolution photographs as the camera is dollied around the space and then stitching them into a 360-degree view that can be navigated via the keyboard.
"It lets the consumer get a full understanding of the room size and amenities in the room. They want to be able to kick the tires," Hoffman says. The virtual tours also help with up-sells. "Someone who has come and stayed in our standard room can sift through the suite upgrades and really understand what they're getting for that trade-up."
Despite the glitter, sites like these are not glamorous branding tools. They're hardworking efforts to get folks into the rooms and out onto the casino floor. For this, interactive is a winner.
"We've seen online shift a lot of industry paradigms. I think it's more so for gaming and hospitality," says Jay Schwartz, CEO of IdeaWork Studios, a shop that specializes in hospitality marketing. IdeaWork created the Hoops and Waterbowl games for Zumanity, and the Rehab party and microsite for the Hard Rock Hotel.
Rehab is a Sunday pool party designed to shift visitor patterns at the Hard Rock Hotel. The typical visit was a Friday night arrival, Sunday departure. IdeaWork collaborated with the hotel to create and promote the summer party with creative that promised, well, hot girl-on-girl action in the lush pool. The party goes until 7 p.m., at which point you want dinner and another night out.
To promote the party, IdeaWork created a microsite where visitors can vote for Ms. Rehab, engage in a catfight with women in bikinis and stilettos, or peek into a cabana where the ladies are having a private party. The fight game could be passed around, with each player contributing an email address in order to duke it out. The result: The hotel was sold out in Rehab season.
IdeaWork's Atlantic City Nightlife microsite is a similar attempt to shift the entire demographic of the gambling town to a younger, hipper crowd. The effort includes traditional media, email, social networking and mobile.
Even the recession-proof gambling industry is suffering. Atlantic City gaming revenues were down 10 percent in November 2008, while Las Vegas casinos' profits had fallen nine months in a row.
"Acquisition is becoming more competitive," Schwartz says. "That's where these microsites and entertainment come in." While the options for entertainment and dining in Las Vegas may seem to outshine the casinos themselves, he says, "it's all about making more money from gambling." Almost everyone will drop a nickel in a slot machine or put $20 on red as they pass through. "Hotels have 7,000 rooms. If you can make an extra $5 per room per night, when you multiple that by 365 days, that's a lot of money." $12.77 million, in fact - and that $5 is extremely conservative. For all this, you might have expected more than girls chicken-fighting in a pool.