Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Your Ad Here!!!

No, not here. Well, yeah, you can buy space on this evidently quite popular Vegas blog.

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
LUXOR – They seemed to appear overnight. Giant images of a camcorder viewfinder trained on the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign materialized late last week on two sides of the Luxor hotel. Drivers on both the I-15 and Las Vegas Boulevard no doubt noticed them. But did they understand them? Probably not, said Brad Goldberg, Vice President of Marketing at Luxor. And that’s ok. “It’s really designed to generate interest to potential advertisers and hopefully do more promotions on the exterior of the building,” Mr. Goldberg said. “The idea was, ‘Let’s make it thought-provoking and see what kind of interest we can generate.’” The camcorder graphics are a new promotion and partnership between Luxor and Skytag, an outdoor advertising firm that specializes in exterior building advertising. It’s the same company that did the LOVE Cirque du Soleil ads atop The Mirage and the Criss Angel ad currently on the front of Luxor. Tentative plans call for the images to be up for at least a month, perhaps longer. Stretching more than 20 stories high, they cover the south and west sides of the pyramid, which is largely new territory for advertisements, Mr. Goldberg said. “We’ve had a few images on the south side of the building before. We’ve never done anything on the west side. I’m hoping it will generate some additional interest on that side of the building,” he said. “We received a few calls from ad agencies even as they were still installing this, so it’s already working.” Aside from the revenue gained by selling
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.


Nick said...

honest to god, steve, you're mistaking this for a city that gives a damn about its reputation or its integrity. it's amazing they don't have ads on poker chips or on the ceiling over your bed!!!

Jinx said...

Ha, Nick makes an excellent point in the end Vegas does only care about the $ however it's made. Good article though Steve and some excellent points, it's a shame that most of the corporations are willing to resort to something like this for revenue generation. I would compare it to sports stadiums selling naming rights, iconic names and associations sold for the highest dollar. And while they've gotten more press because of it, in the end no brand association for the team or the sponsor. And funny at times with a stadium that can't resell it's name right away being stuck with a bankrupt or bad publicity company "Enron field" comes to mind.

Mike Dobranski said...

Yeah, could you imagine if they kept putting these ads on the buildings? We might eventually be as tacky as New York City or Tokyo!



Steve's Biggest Fan said...

did you notice that old howie in the r-j carefully avoided even using the term 'going concern' today in his article? he just talks about doubts that the company will "continue." Which is also inaccurate. These businesses will continue or way or another; the question is whether MGM Mirage will be a going concern or start operating in a different manner. But he avoids using the term either because he's still afraid he doesn't know what it means or he doesn't want to use it correctly and thereby acknowledge publicly that he was clueless before. Either way, tres pathetique.

JH said...

I didn't think I had a comment on this entry, until I read the other comments.

What Mike Dobranski said is perfectly on point.

There's no getting around that Las Vegas is in process of using ads and huge, well-viewed spaces as a place to put them to make money, when before they were just (questionably) pretty. This seems now like it was inevitable. But the nature of Vegas and our buildings, etc. gives us the opportunity to MAKE it iconic, to turn it into something like New York and Tokyo where the ads contribute to the vibe and scene, rather than existing in spite of it.



I would argue that there is a difference between the billboards throughout Times Square and these wraps in Vegas. The shapes and looks of buildings in New York or Tokyo aren't distinctive in and of themselves. They don't bespeak anything about what's inside, they don't represent a brand in any important way. They're just walls, and all that advertising creates a certain color and energy for the public space, a reflection of how crowded and lively the streets are, too. In Vegas, that pyramid means something. or it did before it was dethemed. But the shapes and looks of the buildings are critical to the marketing of these properties. They are, in and of themselves, advertisements for what they offer. And slapping advertising on top of advertising simply crowds out the original message. This is particularly true for Luxor, which is the only one that actually has a novel shape and structure.

Ut-oh, I feel a column coming on here...

Mike Dobranski said...


I don't know, I think the original New York Times building looked pretty cool in its pre Cup of Noodles and Coca-Cola era.....


Is it the problem that ads themselves are put on the casinos, or the way the ads are done on the casinos?

I think there is a way to respect the architectural integrity of the buildings, yet still take advantage of the cash cow that the faces of these buildings can potentially be.

With that said, I wish the casinos were in a position where they wouldn't have to diversify their sources of revenue and seek alternative methods to make a buck, but we don't have the luxury right now. If there is one thing that we learned it is definitely that Las Vegas is not recession proof, and Las Vegas needs to better position itself to protect itself from taking this hard of a hit the next time the economy decides to go in the toilet.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Vegas ALL the time and do not notice a slump, I still have to fight through crowds to get anywhere - ALL planes that I have flown are BOOKED SOLID (no matter what time)to Vegas...

Here's the sad part - Vegas DOES NOT have to be trashy - there IS another way to go, those who run Vegas just have to "envision it".

I LOVE the Luxor bldg. in itself (and wish they had kept the theme) - although the inside of the hotel is tooooo DARK - I have to wear a spotlight on my head to read menus - so, with the exception of advertising their inside talent, running ads for liquor, etc., just looks TACKY.

Aren't there enough billboards in Vegas? (all the way in from the airport, there are at least 30!)

Scott Z said...

Face it Steve, we live in a Fathead world now.