But today I spotted something I hoped and prayed was not what I thought it was. But then it turned out to be exactly what I thought it was. Take a look:
The Luxor, which has already sold their Strip/McCarran-facing side to Absolut vodka for a while in addition to promoting its own entertainment attractions, is now turning the ENTIRE pyramid into billboard space. Here's a closer look at what's there right now:
It's a viewfinder with the Welcome to Las Vegas sign in the middle. In other words, a placeholder. The gigantic equivalent of "YOUR AD HERE." Why not just write that? What, too tacky?
I quizzed Alan Feldman, the MGM Mirage spokesman, about this today. He was probably overwhelmed with media calls about the company's troubling fourth quarter loss -- and here's hoping he schooled some local reporters on what a "going concern" is before they get it wrong again -- but he replied via text message that, indeed, "all four sides are available." He also took the time to email me an article from the most recent MGM Mirage employee newsletter.
The article addresses both what's going on here and why they've decided to be abstract in the least subtle advertising format ever invented. I thought it might be interesting, so here it is:
Hard To Miss
The “buzz” on the new exterior graphic at Luxor
exterior building space for ads, the images often generate a lot of media attention. An outdoor ad for the NBA All-Star game a few years ago landed Luxor on the front page of the New York Times, Mr. Goldberg said. The hope is that these new graphics will garner similar coverage. “Our hotel is truly an iconic building in Las Vegas. Putting these images on that icon should certainly
attract some attention,” Mr. Goldberg said. “We’ll see what kind of buzz it generates."
I expressed surprise that the company would sell ads for things unrelated to anything going on inside the resort. That is, almost all wraps in Vegas to date have at least pimped out the building for a show or event occurring there. Feldman reminded me that the Luxor had done this before, and I remembered that, yes, they'd taken Absolut's money for this:
Feldman also noted that the Rio does it, too. It's true that the Rio did this...
...a couple years ago. But after that, Harrah's Vice President for Marketing Michael Weaver told me the company had decided never to do it again. "The signature shape and look of the building is part of the Rio's brand," Weaver said. "We feel we lose something if we do it too often and for products that don't belong to us." Thus, I believe they've wrapped largely with Penn & Teller stuff ever since. Not the best decision, but at least it's a boundary.
I suppose it's all just business and those of us who think it defaces the iconic nature of the buildings ought to mind our own business. But I wonder if the reason this irks me isn't just that they've turned this fabulous structure into huge billboards but rather that they turned them into EMPTY billboards. They can't even find advertisers in private? They can't just get the word out there quietly in the Madison Avenue world that the space facing the highway can be rented? They have to actually point out that there's nothing there yet?
And what if they can't rent it? What if it goes months and months without something up there, just like billboards in blighted neighborhoods do? Then it's just another vacancy, another emblem of Las Vegas' ongoing, disastrous slump. Forget quiet casino floors, closing showrooms and unsold condos. Hell, every time you pass that building by and there's no ad up, it will scream failure in a way that those others can barely approach. It's telling the world on the largest available canvas just deep in the shitter this town has sunken.