Is Now the Right Time to Advertise for NOLA?

The state of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans have certainly experienced a rough few years on the tourism front…to say the least.

First, Katrina, you know that story, and now the Gulf / BP Oil Spill.  As a result of the ladder, the NOLA CVB finds itself with a few extra million dollars to help promote and sustain tourism to the Big Easy.

$5 million dollars to be exact.

And while the CVB started the campaign to counteract the undying press coverage of the spill, it is receiving more press about the campaign slogan rather than the experience of actually visiting New Orleans.

The line and ad (see below) is a clear slight at the entire British Isles, even if it was done in the name of creative copy writing.

“This isn’t the first time New Orleans has survived the British.”

One must assume that the $1M dedicated to the PR side of the campaign is going to help defend the campaign itself.

But, let’s not criticize.  Honestly, the line is clever.  Probably not the best message given the current political / cultural climate.  But it is clever.

Let’s take a closer look at the $5M spend courtesy of the fine folks at BP and which builds upon the $3M spend already earmarked for the summer travel season.

An interesting and diversified strategy to be sure.  However, one cannot help but think that perhaps there is too much emphasis on the traditional side in lieu of the interactive campaign.

As I was discussing with a colleague recently, the tourism industry in the entire region is dependant on the national news coverage of the event.  And frankly, the coverage has been dire over the past month.

Tar balls, empty restaurants, cancellations, desolate beaches, hurricanes, etc, etc.

To answer my colleague’s question, to put a positive spin on such a negative story is far beyond the reach of a basic social media marketing campaign…certainly one that is started as a response…and likely too great a challenge for even a ‘traditional’ marketing campaign.

That said, the flexibility of a heavy online campaign could provide the CVB with options to respond to the constantly changing story.  In fact, that same point was made by the New Orleans CVB in response to a question about Florida pulling it’s ‘Coast is Clear’ TV campaign after the coast quickly became anything but clear.

Then again, TV is still the great answer for consumer communication during a crisis.

Unfortunately, there is simply too much negative information in the press / media / blogs to sway consumer perception about a Gulf Coast vacation at the present time…whether it is a TV or online campaign.

Perhaps the CVB would have been better served to create a campaign that would have taken up a bit of the air time dedicated to the disaster.

What about a ‘Come to New Orleans on Us’ campaign?  Skip the ad campaign and let’s focus on PR, online and social tactics to spread the word that NOLA is giving anyone who spends 2 (3, 5, 10, you pick the number) nights in New Orleans a check / gift card / credit worth $100.

BP is paying you to visit New Orleans!

Think the Queensland ‘Best Job in the World’ campaign but with more oil.

Let’s face it, news organizations are still looking for angles on this disaster story, but a print ad with a clever tag line is not going to make it past Brian Williams lips to the consumer’s oh so worn ears.

Now, for those of you who have done the math, yes, a $100 credit only allows for 50,000 visitors.  And yes, we are quite sure that the tourism leadership in the city is clamoring for immediate and high-profile action, but perhaps a unique campaign is the answer to a very unique challenge.

And while that campaign does answer the question of ‘why visit now,’ it also faces the same challenges of any other campaign.

Negative, on-location, 24-hour coverage of a disaster is simply too difficult to spin.

By all means, respond to it, tweet about it, even take out an ad to tell your side of the story.  But do not assume you can overcome consumer perception (at least on this scale) with a concurrent advertising campaign.

Hold onto that budget and wait for the next nightly distraction to advertise around.

Thoughts, comments?  How would you spend $5M if you were at the New Orleans CVB?  Let us know in the comments section.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.