Tourism Column
By Gary C. Sherwin 
Vice President, Market Development Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention and Visitors Authority 

It Isn’t Easy Being a Destination
Advertiser These Days

January 28, 2005

It isn’t easy being an advertiser these days.

Whether you are selling destinations or bath tissue, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get your message out so that people truly understand, appreciate and ultimately want to buy it.

Given today’s media environment, you won’t think that is the case. With expansion of cable TV, there are literally hundreds of channels, many with special interests, in which you can advertise on.

Over the last several years there has also been a proliferation of magazines that target everything from cat lovers to people who live in log cabins. The Internet too has created a whole host of niche interest sites.

There has never been more opportunity to reach target audiences than now with specific tailored messages.

Advertising has been and will continue to be a major marketing element of selling the Palm Springs Desert Resorts to leisure visitors and this year the Convention and Visitors Authority will employ a multiple newspaper and magazine buy to get its message out.

But with all these new outlets, the marketing community has lost its ability to reach the large mass audience nationally, and thus sell its products on a broad scale.

There was a time when you could advertise in a major newspaper or on one of the networks and be guaranteed the message was communicated across the country. That’s not the case anymore.

If you have a big enough budget, you could run an ad during the Super Bowl (this year running $2.4 million for a 30 second spot) or a hit TV show which can certainly provide impact. However, the multiple advertising opportunities have diluted the audience so that you can only reach a fraction of the people watching TV during a particular time.

This means even if you have modest ad budgets, like the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention and Authority that spends about $390,000 annually on consumer advertising, you must place ads on multiple cable channels, magazines, internet sites or newspapers in order to get reach for your message and still not connect with most consumers.

And then there is TiVo, the little digital video recorder (DVR) that allows the user to skip through those nasty little TV commercials when they are watching their favorite program. Studies indicate that at least 70 percent of today’s estimated 6.5 million DVRs are routinely used for what’s known as commercial avoidance.

Because of this, according to a new Smith Barney report, the television industry is posed to lose as much as $7.6 billion by 2007, or about 10 percent of its annual ad revenue, as advertisers try to find other ways to reach the consumer.

With all the choices the consumer has for entertainment nowadays, the media market is completely fractionalized, making the ability of destination marketing agencies who are trying to lure visitors to town extremely difficult unless they have the gargantuan $190 million budget of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Even the big boys who do have money are now getting frustrated with the situation and are trying new approaches to get their message out.

Remember the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile that traveled around the country years ago? In order to better reach consumers, Charmin bath tissue has now rolled out its Potty Palooza, a 27 room traveling bathroom facility that goes to 26 to 30 special events around the country to promote their product.

“The media is fracturing, costs are rising, says John Brase, Charmin brand manager. “It’s difficult to reach consumers these days.” That’s why they outfitted a big semi and a trailer and added flushing porcelain toilets, hardwood floors, air-conditioning plus aromatherapy, skylights and an LCD video screen in every room.

While guests wait to use the facility, the Charmin Bear is there to greet people and teach the “Charmin Dance.”

Apparently, the concept worked. After a recent event in Indiana, 30,000 people signed a petition to keep it coming back.

Then there is KB Homes, which in attempt to develop a “co-branding” program with the hit TV show “Desperate Housewives,” suggested to the producers that the show’s neighborhood be a KB created neighborhood. “Their community deserves an identification ands KB Homes can deliver it,” said Derrick Hall, a KB spokesman.
Never mind that the neighborhood is actually on a studio back lot which once served as the homes of the Munsters and the Cleavers of “Leave it to Beaver.”

In today’s difficult media environment, marketers are having to get creative and go beyond just paid media to get their message out. Promotions and good publicity are becoming even more important elements in the marketing mix.

At least some things don’t change. Being daring and imaginative are still the best traits to possess when selling anything, be it toilet paper or travel destinations.

Gary C. Sherwin
Vice President, Market Development Palm Springs
Desert Resorts Convention and Visitors Authority 
70-100 Highway 111
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
Telephone: (760) 770-9000
Toll Free: (800) 967-3767

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