Local Ad Group Will Encourage Tourists To Come Back

Reed Guice recited the opening line of the new commercial he just wrote.

"Soft breezes still fill the sails of our schooners," he read.

On his computer were pictures that showed the beauty that could still be found amid the area's hurricane debris. Guice referred to the copy as "an invitation from the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Katrina kind of battered us down," he said, "but we're coming back."

The colorful words about south Mississippi's post Katrina scenery were tweaked by fellow advertising executives Laura Hasty and Ted Riemann.

"This message is from our heart," Riemann said. "We need to invite people that know this area to come back to this area and help us."

In the highly competitve advertising world, three of south Mississippi's fiercest competitors formed a partnership called the Big 3 to temporarily sell gulf coast tourism.

"Who better to bring it than hometown folks that know the area, know the people, know how to market this area," wondered Hasty.

That wasn't the case before Katrina. Harrison County had a two year contract with a Florida company to design the area's advertising campaign. Since the hurricane, the county and the Turkel group had an agreement. No publicly funding ads would promote south Mississippi's beach or any of its attractions until the area was ready for tourists.

At a Tuesday meeting, the Harrison County Tourism Commission voted to let the contract with Florida's Turkel group expire. Then it agreed to a short term partnership with the Big Three. Commissioner Danny Guice said the agreement was important because "we need to do some advertising right now."

Commissioner Ken Montana said it was time to let locals start advertising coast tourism again.

"I think we're at a point here where we need to take our own advice," Montana told his colleagues. "Loyalty is with our own neighbors."

Riemann appreciated the support.

"I think we have the advantage of being the local team. We certainly have the expertise." he said.

Riemann's ad group waived most of the fees it usually charges. The only payment it will get from this contract is a 15 percent commission.

"We felt like it was time for us to get together and give back to the community that's given us so much," Reed Guice said.

What the Big Three is giving back is a slogan that will be heard in TV commercials all over the region. Reed Guice put that slogan in the last line of his script.

"Come back to the Mississippi Gulf Coast," he said.

Again, Tuesday's vote only authorized the Big Three to produce a quick, short term advertising campaign. The tourism commission's next move will be to ask several ad agencies to submit contract proposals. Commissioners will sort through the bids and choose one to become the group's long term advertising partner.