New Orleans tourism advertising efforts moving from summer focus to year-round effort

September 23 2014 | Latest News
By Mark Waller, | The Times-Picayune

Advertising New Orleans to potential visitors once was a mostly summertime pursuit. The idea was that the city is naturally strong as a destination in the cooler months, while summer is slow, a harder sell and the season that needs the most marketing help.

Aided by new revenue from an assessment that hotels agreed to impose on themselves this year, however, the agency that promotes New Orleans to tourists is moving toward a year-round campaign. The board of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. heard about that Monday in a presentation of the group's plans for 2015.

The expanded effort starts in the closing months of 2014, when the marketers will advertise the city for the first time for fall and the winter holiday season in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington. Mark Romig, president of the marketing corporation, said the agency in the past ran out money before the late part of the year for advertising in larger, more distant cities.

An estimated $1.2 million will go toward television commercials, including a 30-second spot from the city's "Follow Your NOLA" tourism campaign and a 15-second, holiday version called "Follow Your Joy."

"This will be high-impact for us and, again, historic for the city, to be out there in fall," Romig said.

A dozen cities within driving distance also will see the holiday ad as an online video, in a $300,000 push.

In 2015, the group will continue with its "Follow Your NOLA" theme for a third year. Jeff Hinson of the 360i advertising firm, which the tourism corporation hired to run the campaign, said the strategy remains to address travelers who are "experiential discoverers."

"That's our person, (who) dives in deep" exploring their destinations, Hinson said.

To keep the campaign fresh, however, the marketers will make a new video advertisement around the theme. Hinson said other cities are starting to echo the approach, raising the need for differentiation. "We've constantly got to reinvent," he said.

The campaign also will likely start early in the year instead of waiting until spring.

"With more dollars at play, we can be up in the markets on a more year-round basis," Romig said.

The main advertising campaign is projected to cost about $5.9 million in 2015, up from $4.5 million planned for years before the new hotel assessment. The agency's total marketing effort will cost an estimated $10.3 million, including public relations work, Internet marketing, support for festivals and other points.

Board Vice Chairman Nick Mueller, president of the National World War II Museum, asked for more details on the spending and measures of how well the strategies are working. In approving the conceptual plan for 2015, the board stipulated further examination of those questions.

Romig said other goals will carry over from this year, such as figuring out how to attract more visitors on weekdays. Board member David Teich, general manager of the Windsor Court Hotel, said luring leisure travelers on weekdays is a perennial challenge. He suggested the best approach might be convincing weekend visitors to extend their stays.

Jeremy Cooker, vice president of the marketing corporation, listed optimizing the group's Internet outlets for mobile devices as another 2015 goal. And it continues merging its web presence with the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, a separate agency that focuses on attracting meetings and events. The two groups are aiming for a unified portal for vacation and business travelers.

Final numbers on the tourist count for a given year typically come out in the spring of the next year. A report released in April counted almost 9.3 million visitors to New Orleans in 2013. So far, Romig said, 2014 appears to be strong.

"We've seen some informal numbers from the first half of the year," Romig said. "Things are looking good."