New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. will launch $7 million push to encourage tourists to unleash their fun side

April 17 2011 | Latest News
April 17, 2011, 7:08 AM

Jaquetta White, The Times-Picayune

The New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. plans to spend $7 million on a multifaceted advertising campaign designed to convince would-be tourists that they should travel to New Orleans to unleash their suppressed fun side.

The "You're Different Here" campaign will include three primary campaigns and four secondary campaigns to begin running this month online, in print and on television, the interim head of the marketing corporation said in the organization's board meeting Thursday.

The campaign includes a primary focus on online marketing and summer and Christmas season tourism. It will have a secondary focus on festivals, multicultural tourism, art and culture, and a new sector: midweek tourism.

The overall campaign pushes the idea that New Orleans is a unique place where visitors can come to shed their boring selves in favor of a more interesting "twin." Two 30-second commercials show tourists unzipping their comparably stuffy bodies to reveal more outgoing versions of themselves.

Peter Mayer Advertising designed the campaign, which will be rolled out in a variety of markets including large drive-in cities like Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Memphis and Chicago.

A major component of the advertising campaign is a push to engage travelers online. Of the $7 million the marketing corporation will spend, $2 million will go to online media, the largest outlay ever for that medium by the group. Nathan Williams, who oversees the Internet operation for the marketing corporation, said the budget will be used not only for obvious advertising like banner ads, but to produce more targeted ads that can track a person's interest in New Orleans and engage him with specific offerings from the time he makes an initial inquiry about the city through and following his visit.

Such targeted advertising has nearly doubled the number of requests for tourism guidebooks made through the marketing corporation in the first quarter of 2011 as compared with 2010, Williams said.

The marketing corporation announced the advertising plan in a meeting outlining its 2011 budget. The agency, which promotes leisure travel in New Orleans, plans to spend a total of $13 million this year, a 61 percent increase from last year's spending of $8.1 million. The $13 million includes the $7 million to be spent on the new ad campaign.

The budget has been buoyed in 2011 by a $3.8 million cash infusion passed along to the marketing corporation from the city, which received the money from the office of the lieutenant governor. It was given to the state by BP as part of a grant to promote tourism in New Orleans. The marketing corporation will receive another $2.2 million, for a total of $6 million, next year. The money from BP must all be spent by May 2012.

The New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau had openly lobbied for the $6 million grant. But Scott Hutcheson, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's adviser on the cultural economy, said the marketing corporation received the money because it is a public agency and the grant money is considered public financing. The visitors bureau is a public-private entity that does not disclose all of its spending.

Hutcheson said the visitors bureau also was the most obvious choice to receive the money because it promotes leisure travel, as compared with the Convention Center's focus on the convention and meetings business.

In other news, the marketing corporation is beginning to search for a new executive director in earnest. Sandy Shilstone led the organization for 11 years but decided not to renew her contract at the end of last month. Darryl Berger, who replaced Kent Wasmuth as chairman of the corporation's board Thursday, said he plans to meet with each board member individually to determine whether there is a consensus on what type of search to conduct. The options range from a nationwide search led by a consulting firm, Berger said, to tapping someone recommended by a board member.

Berger, president of real estate development company The Berger Company Inc., said the goal is to have a new executive director in place "very quickly," though he could not provide a timeline.