Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Las Vegas’ tourism board struck gold with the “What happens here, stays here” advertising tagline. The phrase became the centerpiece of the city’s marketing, and grabbed hold of the popular consciousness.

You probably know where the story goes from here. “What happens here” has since transcended its status as a memorable advertising line to become a bona fide pop-culture touchstone, the “Where’s the beef?” of its time. Billy Crystal riffed on it during the Oscar telecast, as did characters on Frasier and The Simpsons. Laura Bush (of all people) invoked it twice to winning comic effect on The Tonight Show. Former morals czar and enthusiastic gambler Bill Bennett lamented to Jay Leno about televised footage of him playing the slots at a casino: “Apparently, ‘What happens here, stays here’ applies to everyone but me.”

In advertising parlance, the ad campaign accompanying the slogan has “repositioned” Las Vegas as the Sin City it has always been since its mobster founding. It does so via a series of “Vegas Stories,” 30-second vignettes that play off consumer research suggesting that people imagine Vegas as a place that is “commitment-free, pressure-free, judgment-free,” according to Billy Vassiliadis, chief executive of R&R Partners, the Vegas ad agency that created the campaign.

The shaping of the campaign worked, I think, due as much to what it didn’t say about Sin City:

Indeed, the ads occupy a kind of non-context, an Anywhere of diners and limos and hotel lobbies. There are hardly any of the usual signifiers of Las Vegas — no flashing neon, no showgirls and no gambling. Instead, what ad agency creative director Randy Snow has imagined is a certain thrillingly dangerous but slightly seamy psychological atmosphere.

I noticed early on that gambling, the one element most associative with Vegas, was conspicuously absent from the ad spots. I figured it was an exercise in clever de-emphasis: Everyone knows the casinos are there, so there’s no reason to sell them, or even mention them. But the attitude set up in the campaign left enough suggestion in the mind of the consumer.

The story of the “What happens here” campaign is inspirational for ad professionals, as campaign copywriters Jason Hoff and Jeff Candido parlayed that success to jobs at bigger agencies. It’s important to establish a winning track record early!

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/07/2021 07:16:03 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture | Permalink |

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  1. WHAT HAPPENS IN SIN CITY…
    I’m wondering: How many moviegoers will head to the theaters in a couple of weeks to catch Sin City, thinking that it’s going to be a flick about the original “Sin City”, Las Vegas?

    True, for the past decade, Vegas has tried to rehabilitate its …

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 03/20/2005 @ 12:16:51 PM

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