The R.V. Column:

State slogan not a smash hit

‘What happens here, stays here’ sets the bar too high for ‘A world within’ to clear

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

"Don't Fence Me In"


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A television commercial launching the state¹s summer tourism campaign will be the first public airing of the new brand and it incorporates a distinct Nevada vibe ­the musical soundtrack is performed by the Killers, a Las Vegas-based rock band singing a classic western cover song, "Don't Fence Me In."

It’s rare for a company or organization to deliver a tagline that’s a no-doubt grand slam home run.

We experienced it a few years ago when the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, through its advertising consultant R&R Partners, came up with “What happens here, stays here.”

The campaign, though controversial to the straight-laced conservative crowd, was a smash. Its success was easy to gauge because within weeks of its release, it was being used as a punch line by sitcom writers and late-night talk show hosts.

Before long, T-shirt manufacturers were illegally commandeering the phrase for their own purposes, and the LVCVA’s legal department found itself sending out a flood of cease-and-desist letters.

The LVCVA practically had to build a new trophy case to accommodate all the awards the campaign received.

With memories of that campaign fresh in people’s minds, many in the community waited with anticipation for the Nevada Tourism Commission’s new brand and catchphrase, which cost millions of dollars and has been in development for close to two years.

Last week, the brand was unveiled: “Nevada: A world within. A state apart.” It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like “I love New York,” or “Virginia is for lovers.”

And it wasn’t exactly a grand slam. Maybe closer to a run-scoring single. Or a bases-loaded walk. It scores a run but not in grand style.

I knew I was going to be underwhelmed when I was told the message was better viewed than heard.

When the genesis of the slogan is explained, it makes sense. But the best catchphrases are the ones that immediately deliver the message in that handful of words. I’m not sure “A world within. A state apart” does that.

Those who concentrate only on the dollars and cents are furious. Because the brand development project was handed off from one company to another, the cost went up. Burson-Marsteller, the company that delivered the finished product, also helped with a website, mobile application and public relations.

But that’s no consolation to people who simply view it as the state spending $1.5 million per word. The all-in cost of the branding is upwards of $8.5 million, and there’s much more to it than just the catchphrase.

Developing a brand that captures everything about Nevada is no easy feat considering the diversity of the state.

I was among those who liked using Nevada’s postal code, NV, in a slogan. As in, “We’re the NV of the nation.”

Or “You’ll NV our mountains.” “You’ll NV our deserts.” “You’ll NV our entertainment.” “You’ll NV our economic opportunity.” It could be used across a spectrum of state departments, just as Gov. Brian Sandoval wanted.

So far, the early returns on the world-within, state-apart brand haven’t been good. Definitely not the grand slam for which tourism leaders were hoping.

But many seemed to like that the Killers sang “Don’t Fence Me In” in the first television commercial using the new brand. Bringing the Las Vegas rock band into the promotion was a great move.

But will it save “A world within. A state apart”?

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