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Post-Sept. 11 Tourism Ads Are Getting a Midcourse Correction

TOURISM advertisers are making midcourse corrections to campaigns they introduced after Sept. 11 to lure consumers who, while still nervous, are showing a greater inclination to travel.

Research by the Travel Industry Association of America in Washington, for instance, showed that more consumers now "want to take a trip, plan to take a trip, in the next six months," said Betsy O'Rourke, senior vice president for marketing there.

So a print campaign that began in early October, focused on efforts to reassure potential travelers on safety and travel freedom issues, has been supplanted by a more upbeat television campaign meant to "encourage them to book" trips, Ms. O'Rourke said.

The commercials, appearing in the United States and overseas, are being financed by an estimated $20 million raised by companies like American Express, Hertz, Hilton and Starwood as well as travel industry associations. The campaign was created by Marriott International agency, McCann-Erickson Worldwide Advertising in New York, part of the McCann-Erickson World Group unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

The commercials feature video clips of President Bush, taken from recent speeches, encouraging travel, which are interspersed with travel- industry employees like pilots and hotel clerks repeating his words.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is also introducing a second phase to a campaign to bolster tourism. The first ads appeared on Sept. 30, and the adjusted pitches began running earlier this month and will continue through the end of the year.

The new commercials still carry the theme "It's time for you," but with distance from Sept. 11, they are more humorous and feature well- known performers like Rita Rudner and Siegfried & Roy.

"This next phase of the campaign kicks up the fun factor a notch, and says to people, `It's O.K. to laugh again,' " said Billy Vassiliadis, chief executive at R&R Partners in Las Vegas, the authority's agency. Spending for the campaign was estimated at $13 million.

Likewise, ads promoting San Diego that began after Sept. 11 have been modified.

The initial campaign "was right for the time," said Tom Di Zinno, president and chief executive at Di Zinno Thompson in San Diego, the agency for the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, because the city itself is a "time-to-yourself environment, a no-hassle regenerative experience."

The modifications, which started at the end of October, include a theme, "San Diego. Where to be," and add information about specific promotions, discounts and other deals being offered by local tourist attractions like Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.

In at least one instance, the changes are not in the creative content of a campaign but involve other important elements like the budget and the creators. The Costa Rica Tourist Board increased marketing spending to $9 million from $6.5 million and bolstered efforts to reach American tourists by naming the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., office of Porter Novelli, part of the Omnicom Group, to work with the Costa Rica offices of Porter Novelli and a sibling, BBDO Worldwide.

In other cases, tourism boards and associations decided to wait longer than their counterparts to begin special campaigns. The first tourism campaign for Philadelphia since Sept. 11, with the theme "Philly's more fun when you sleep over," began in mid-November, to coincide with the availability of a new overnight weekend promotion and holiday events as well as with people warming up to the idea of taking trips again.

"Before that time people just weren't ready to think about it," said Meryl Levitz, president and chief executive at the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation. "People were not just staying closer to home, they were staying at home."

The campaign, with spending estimated at $3 million, was created by an agency in Narberth, Pa., Red Tettemer. Print and television ads, for example, feature people, including celebrities like the clothing designer Nicole Miller and the musician Peter Nero, wearing pajamas and ready to curl up in bed - not at home, but in a Philadelphia hotel room.


Allison Fass, The New York Times November 29, 2001

Copyright © 2001 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.