While Nevada has been focusing on promoting the state's more rural pleasures (especially skiing) and "old West" cultural attractions, the state's approach to tourism marketing is far from retro.
For the 2010-11 winter season, the Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) has built on its innovative winter 2009/summer 2010 "Let Nevada Capture Your Heart" campaigns.
Through compelling creative and targeted, cost-effective media -- including ground-breaking use of Google in-stream video -- those campaigns, with a combined budget of just $3.6 million (reflecting the state's overall, recession-driven budget slashes), generated $110 million in tax revenue. That translated to a record $31 yield for every $1 invested, according to TNS Global data.
Under Dann Lewis -- named NCOT's director in early 2009, and previously tourism director for Maine and New York (Lewis developed an integrated marketing structure for New York State based on the then-new "I Love NY" campaign) -- NCOT marketing worked with researchers to determine how its target audience receives travel information and plan vacations.
That audience -- upscale, active adults in high-population markets within easy driving or flying distance from the state, plus international markets including Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Germany -- was reached through targeted advertising heavily focused on the Internet and television.
NCOT's efforts included a co-op program with Southwest.com that spotlighted Nevada as a "featured destination" on the site and included an email promotion to seven million Southwest registrants starting last November -- producing an average 46% week-over-week lift in Nevada hotel bookings through the Southwest site. The current winter campaign, with a budget of $2.2 million, also targets low-hanging-fruit markets (California, Utah and Arizona, in particular), and also focuses on TV and the Internet, along with print, mobile and out-of-home advertising.
The creative -- emphasizing the state's "free-spirited" atmosphere and featuring two hands forming a heart around classic winter scenes (snow-shoeing through blankets of snow, swooshing through fresh powder, sipping hot chocolate by an outdoor fire pit on the edge of Lake Tahoe), is again being conveyed in part through shorter, in-stream videos on the state's own mobile site (NVski.mobi), Google and Weather.mobi and other third-party mobile Web sites, to reinforce longer, traditional TV spots.
The state's enhanced NVski.mobi site provides snow, weather and traffic reports, as well as resort details, information on arrivals and departures at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and the ability to purchase lift tickets.
The Google element is particularly intriguing. Google.com began working with NCOT in late 2009, and chose Nevada as a first success case story for its tourism business efforts. NCOT's in-stream video test program with Google exposed its skiing commercial to 7.7 million people, targeted to high-income skiers/snowboarders ages 25 to 54 in L.A., Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago and Phoenix. Forty-five percent watched the entire 30-second ad, and those who watched were found to be 33% more likely to consider Nevada as a vacation destination than those who saw other Nevada online ads.
Little surprise, then, that a continued relationship with Google dominates the $835,000 earmarked for the Internet in NCOT's current fiscal year budget, which also includes presence on Yahoo, Weather.com, TripAdvisor and the Southwest Airlines site.
Social media are also integrated into the current plan -- although, given their low media investment costs, NCOT's budget instead includes an employee dedicated full-time to developing and leveraging Facebook, Twitter and YouTube opportunities.
The winter campaign media budget also includes $1.4 million for television ads in L.A. and San Francisco, and $90,000 for print ads in National Geographic Traveler, Southwest Spirit, Southwest Airlines' in-flight magazine, and the state's own Nevada magazine, reported the Las Vegas Sun.
In addition, the state is scheduled to spend $55,000 for mobile advertising and $10,000 for billboards for the winter season.
The current campaign also leverages the previously established, successful recession-driven strategies of expanding the promotion of meetings and conventions, weddings and honeymoons, and Nevada's parks and museums; expanding Web content to appeal to additional niche markets such as travelers seeking pet-friendly accommodations; conducting media campaigns targeted to diverse market segments such as Asian-Americans and Latino Americans; and working with Nevada's various tourism "territories" to develop sales-blitz programs for increasing overnight stays in rural communities.
In a surprise announcement covered by national media, Lewis in mid-November announced his resignation as Nevada's commissioner of tourism, stressing his gratification with the achievements realized with the NTOC team but his sense that the time was right for him to "move on to other endeavors."
Larry Friedman, NCOT deputy director of sales and industry partners and a 20-year commission veteran, has been named interim NCOT director. Friedman currently oversees the state's rural programs and domestic and international sales, including NCOT's international offices in Mexico, Canada, the U.K. and continental Europe.