Biloxi — The early portion of the launch of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau’s (CVB’s) 2005 ad campaign was boring.
Some 300 people gathered at the Saenger Theater in Biloxi April 27 for an ad campaign launch that tourism director Steve Richer promised would be unique and unusual. The first thing out of the ordinary was that visitors were directed to enter through the back stage entrance, punching a time clock before walking through a mock office of people busy at work.
After taking their seats, for the first 20 minutes or so the audience watched as actors on the stage demonstrated how boring working life can be. A woman in work overalls lackadaisically swept the same area of the stage over and over, while another worker turned the crank to sharpen a pencil — over and over and over again.
It was all to make a point. Ordinary working life can be boring. So why not “Take Your Life for a Spin on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.” That is the theme of the new ad campaign designed to reach out to “adventurers,” younger and more affluent travelers who want to try something out of the ordinary on their next vacation.
As the ad campaign was introduced on a screen behind the stage, the actors stripped off their overalls to reveal swim suits, party clothes and fishing wear as the stage was transformed into scenes representing fishing, golfing, beach sunbathing and a casino.
Al Hopkins, chairman of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Tourism Commission, said the idea of the campaign is to bring together the warmth, feeling and unique culture of the Old South with the excitement of the recreational, resort and gaming amenities of the New South.
The fastest-growing segment of new visitors to the Coast is coming from 700 miles or farther away, according to research done by the CVB. And surveys show once people visit, odds are good they will be back.
“Our research shows between 90% to 100% of people who visit the Coast are satisfied,” Richer said. “People like the Coast to visit and to live.”
The ad campaign was developed by Turkel Advertising based in Coconut Grove, Fla. Turkel’s research showed that people come to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to get away.
“Their lives are boring,” he said. “They want to get away somewhere and have fun. They are coming for lots of reasons and they like that there are a lot of things to do here other than gaming — even if they don’t end up doing them.”
Turkel said about 54% of vacationers are “centrists.” They like following the crowd. Another 21% are traditionalists who don’t like trying new things. And another 21% are “adventurers.” They are always looking for adventure, and want to do and see something new.
“The U.S. has become so generic that few places in the U.S. have unique value and cultural authenticity,” Turkel said. “Adventurers are attracted by great food and music and new resorts. They like places that are building new things. Our job is to bring more people to the Gulf Coast who will spend more money. We want to use imagination to build the market.”
Currently, the Coast has approximately $1.5 billion worth of new tourism product under development including the new Hard Rock Café and Casino, additions to existing casinos like the Isle of Capri and the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum. There have also been major efforts made to build the eco-tourism industry on the Coast that includes river tours, kayaking and canoeing, fishing, bird watching, and trips to the offshore islands of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
The campaign will include print, radio and television advertisements. One unique feature of the TV ads is they are short — only 15 seconds — and play on the theme, “Take your life for a spin on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” using imagines of a roulette wheel, a fishing reel, golf and people spinning around dancing on a beach.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.