MS tourism leaders to ask BP for $7.5M a month for advertising - - The News for South Mississippi

MS tourism leaders to ask BP for $7.5M a month for advertising

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi Gulf Coast tourism leaders say they'll ask from BP for $7.5 million a month to market our area to a national audience following the oil spill. The request extends until after the clean up and then some. Meanwhile, plans for a regional campaign are already moving ahead.

The Harrison County Tourism Commission held an emergency meeting on Wednesday. As early as next week, major cities in the southeast could be seeing television commercials letting them know the Mississippi Gulf Coast is open for business. Tourism leaders say they need to get that message out as soon as possible.

Tourism is hurting because of negative news about the oil spill, and industry leaders say casinos are not immune from the fallout.

Beverly Martin of the Mississippi Casino Operators Association said, "The perceptions of the oil being here on the coast are causing hotel cancellations which are then trickling down to the gaming revenues getting lower. The entertainment is not as sold out as it was. It's affecting all of us. Every aspect of tourism is being affected and there's not one drop of oil on the beach."

There is a new commercial paid for by BP to help lure tourists to Mississippi, Florida and Alabama. Local tourism leaders say the ad is well intentioned, but falls short.

 "It's probably a national agency that did it," said Ad Executive Ted Riemann. "Thank gosh they did and thank gosh they made the effort. But that's not what I think we need here in Harrison County on the Mississippi Gulf Coast."

The Tourism Commission shifted its funds to immediately start production on television ads. A regional campaign will target markets in the southeast like Dallas, Atlanta, and Memphis.

"Prior to this crisis, we tried to focus more on the drive-in markets," said Martin. "But now with the national, enormous negative national media, I think we need to have a further reach."

The message will be that the coast is more than the beach, but also restaurants, golfing, concerts and more.

"The beach is one of the amenities, but our largest tourism attraction now and has been for the last 15 is casinos," said Martin.

The commission voted to ask BP to pay to run approximately 1,500 commercials a month on five national cable news channels. The commission would have all creative and placement control.

"We're up against negative national media," said Riemann. "They look at disasters, and they're always looking on the bad side of it. We want to show the positive side of it and make sure that [they get] the message that the Mississippi Gulf Coast is still open for business."

The Tourism Commission decided to ask the state for 35 percent, or $8.75 million, of the $25 million that Mississippi received from BP to be used for marketing. Tourism leaders say that is the percentage of state tourism revenue that comes from the coast.

The board members voted to ask that they be included on any further discussions between the state and BP about marketing our area.

Riemann said production on the new commercials will start on Friday and should be ready to air on Tuesday or Wednesday.

WLOX asked Harrison County Tourism Commissioner Beverly Martin to explain how they determined that $7.5 million/month was the right amount to ask BP to pay. Martin explained that they estimate overcoming the negative national news would cost roughly $4.7 million in national advertising. To advertise twice on Good Morning America and the Today show would be another $2.5 million.

To put that number in perspective, the three counties currently budget $3 million a year for advertising and sponsorships. Most of that money comes from the Harrison County Tourism Commission.

That's $3 million/year before the oil spill, and $90 million/year from BP to offset the negative spin post oil spill.

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