A bellboy without pants. A stylish woman with a man packed in her steamer trunk. A guy using Queen lyrics as a pick-up line.
Those startling, but memorable, images earned the Cosmopolitan two national advertising awards.
"We wanted something that really cut through what everyone was doing here," Lisa Marchese, the Cosmopolitan's chief marketing officer, said about the recent campaign.
Marchese recently returned from New York, where she brought home Las Vegas' first Effie award from the American Marketing Association in 15 years. The Cosmopolitan won a silver trophy for travel and tourism.
Treasure Island brought home Las Vegas' last Effie in 1995 for ads trumpeting its opening.
The Cosmopolitan also picked up a Clio Award for a commercial that depicted a showdown between two men fighting over the same woman, set to the spoken lyrics of Queen's 1970s hit, "Bohemian Rhapsody."
The resort dubbed its edgy ad campaign, "The Right Amount of Wrong." Commercials ran during the Grammy Awards and Oscars. Print ads appeared in print and online, in Esquire and the Las Vegas Sun.
The ad played particularly well with a demographic that UNLV marketing students dubbed "the curious class."
"They are a group of people who like to have fun and who have money," said Anjala Krishen, an assistant marketing professor. "They are open minded and curious about things."
The curious class typically includes an international group who have a sense of style and taste for adventure, Krishen said.
"The big thing is they were willing to take a chance," Kirshen said of Cosmopolitan executives who greenlighted the campaign. "They were out there on the cutting edge, doing something different."
When the Cosmopolitan staff and its advertising agency, Fallon of Minneapolis, looked around Las Vegas, they saw plenty of ads with panoramic scenes of the Strip. Rather than follow that trend, they set out to put together intriguing story lines with sexy themes that suggest what might happen inside the Cosmopolitan.
One ad features a man in a tuxedo ordering a large martini with a tagline calling it "a good idea." Another shows a beautiful woman in a swimsuit stretched across a man's lap and holding a martini. That tagline reads, “I love hard labor. I could watch it all day."
UNLV's Kirshen said the sexuality in the ads works because it's subtle. Kirshen will publish research this summer in the Journal of Business explaining how contradictions, such as "right amount of wrong," work well in advertising.
"It's complex enough to make people think, but is simple enough to remember," Kirshen said.
Marchese said that's what the Cosmopolitan hoped for from the ads.
"What's so great about them is they're the kind of ads that people will see and read different things into them," she said. "Even if you don't like them, you remember them."