Skift Take

The Boardwalk empire was back in business shortly after Sandy left town, but the image of a destroyed city by the sea has kept visitors away. Whether or not an ad campaign can fix this and Atlantic City's other issues remains to be seen.

The Atlantic City Alliance’s “Do AC” campaign will once again encourage people to visit the resort, an effort that officials hope will help the city as it struggles to be seen as a tourist destination in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

In the days leading up to the storm, the alliance suspended its campaign to reflect the severity of the situation and the evacuation efforts underway. Radio and television advertisements were pulled, and some print ads were discontinued.

That changes Tuesday as the alliance re-launches the $6 million fall campaign, this time with a focus on drawing people back to the shore.

Print and radio ads will debut today across the Northeast, and a new 30-second television commercial created specifically to entice visitors to return to the city post-hurricane, will follow next week. Images of the city will be prominently displayed, reinforcing that the city’s landmarks were not affected by the storm.

Sandy made landfall just south of Atlantic City on Oct. 29, but the resort escaped the worst of the region’s damage. Many homes were flooded and possessions destroyed, but the city’s main tourism draws — namely shopping destinations, casinos, and the Boardwalk — sustained little to no damage in the storm.

It’s imperative that the public see that the city’s tourist attractions made it through the storm unscathed, officials said.

A poll commissioned by ACA in the days following the storm showed that 41 percent of Americans polled nationwide believed that the Atlantic City Boardwalk was destroyed by Sandy. The survey, conducted by Russell Research, based in East Rutherford, Bergen County, canvassed 1,320 adults online between Nov. 9 and 12. Of the sample, 200 respondents were from the Northeast.

Still, more than one in 10 of those polled said they would be extremely likely or very likely to visit Atlantic CIty in the next year, ACA spokesman Jeff Guaracino said.

Just how long it will take to communicate how little damage the city’s tourist attractions saw will vary from region to region, ACA President Liza Cartmell said.

“Everybody’s eyes were glued to the Weather Channel and CNN up until the time the storm actually hit. Then focus shifted elsewhere, and many people lost power. So in many cases, the last image you saw was of flooding in Atlantic City,” Cartmell said. “It depends on how quickly we can get back in front of people’s eyes and show them that things are okay.”

The resort’s Boardwalk took the brunt of the national media coverage as several outlets reported that the landmark had been washed away entirely. What was destroyed was a segment of the Boardwalk in the resort’s residential Inlet section that had been deteriorating for decades. Television reports showed correspondents stationed in front of the destroyed section saying that the walkway was gone.

A news release on the campaign’s relaunch calls those reports sensational and out of context. Last week, 600 people dressed in “Do AC” gear walked from Atlantic Club Casino Hotel to Revel in an effort to generate publicity for the walkway and the resort as a whole.

As “Do AC” relaunches, don’t look for Kevin Rudolf’s “Let It Rock” party anthem to lead the campaign, as it has in the past. Following the devastation Hurricane Sandy brought to the region, the alliance has opted to take on the theme of rejuvenation at the Jersey shore.

“We don’t feel that the same messaging can be in place for the next month or so. We needed a different tone, and we needed to say the shore is not destroyed,” Cartmell said. “We need to lead the Jersey comeback. This is where people earn their income.”

Moody’s Investors Service has predicted that casino revenue will plummet by 25 percent both the fourth quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013. The resort’s 12 casinos were all closed for five days or more due to the storm. Atlantic Club has since laid off 80 employees, and Trump Entertainment Resorts has required its salaried employees to take one week unpaid furlough while its hourly employees will not be paid for time off during the storm.

Not all elements of the “Do AC” campaign are new; some were in the works well before the storm such as “Winter Sweet,” the new holiday-themed outdoor 3D light and sound show that will be projected onto Boardwalk Hall. Starting on Dec. 1, “Winter Sweet” will replace “Duality,” the show that’s been featured on the outside of the hall since July.

The alliance is also promoting holiday efforts underway by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which has committed to spending $595,000 on holiday decorations and will bring back the city’s holiday parade on Dec. 1.

Efforts are also being made to support local recovery efforts. A series of holiday-themed “Do AC” car magnets will be sold for $5 at various locations throughout the resort with all money benefiting local relief efforts. After 130,000 magnets were given away for free, the alliance recently opted to charge $1 plus tax per magnet to cover its costs.

(c)2012 The Press of Atlantic City (Pleasantville, N.J.). Distributed by MCT Information Services. 


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Tags: atlantic city, marketing, natural disasters

Photo credit: A crew from the Tropicana Casino removes plywood sheets from the windows facing the ocean on the boardwalk following the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Atlantic City, New Jersey, October 30, 2012. Tom Mihalek / Reuters

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