New tourism ads paying off for city: Ten-second promotions attracting more visitors

When Indianapolis promoters were deciding what to do to lure leisure travelers to the city over summer break, they decided being short and to the point was the way to go.

So, the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association partnered with eight area attractions to produce extremely brief television and radio travel commercials.

The resulting ad campaign was wellfunded-with a budget $240,000 more than the previous year-and produced stellar results, including more awareness of Indianapolis attractions, more nights spent in Indianapolis, and more spending per trip.

The positive reviews were good news, too, because a similar campaign of supershort plugs for holiday travel just started Nov. 5.

“The campaign was a little bit of breaking the rules,” said Mary Huggard, ICVA’s vice president of marketing and communications.

Traditionally, tourism promoters have figured they should pitch an entire city and use at least 30-second spots to outline several offerings. Last year’s summer ad campaign did just that.

ICVA spent $396,810 on those mostly 30-second radio and television commercials. There were three themed spots-one stressing that the city was family- friendly and another featuring couples enjoying a visit downtown.

But this year, the budget got a big boost because all eight venues pitched in $20,000 each to help pitch their specific attraction. Then the ICVA and the Indianapolis Cultural Development Commission came up with another $470,000.

The result was 10-second radio and television ads about the Indianapolis Zoo, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Indiana State Museum, Conner Prairie, Indianapolis’ cultural districts, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

Thirty-second spots about Indianapolis still played in Chicago because the association couldn’t place the 10-second ones in that market.

The ICVA also sponsored radio traffic reports and wrote scripts for the plugs read before the reports.

One of the TV ads shows people viewing dolphins at the Indianapolis Zoo, saying, “This is my Indy. What’s yours?” Then it flashes the ICVA’s Web site address for trip-planning information.

“We’re truly in an attention-deficit world, and longer commercials have a hard time catching attention for the duration of the commercial,” Huggard said. “So we went for a blitzkrieg of hard-hitting, dynamic ads.”

And the more specialized ads were run in more targeted markets, according to Frank Friedman, senior vice president in the local office of Optimedia, a division of advertising firm Publicis Group, which placed the ads for the ICVA.

For example, the Speedway spot ran on sports cable stations while spots for the zoo and Conner Prairie were placed with cable stations that run children’s shows.

On television, the shorter ads also are more likely to run right at the end of a bank of ads, as people are scrambling back to their seats.

And the results were impressive, according to a review by Carmel-based Strategic Marketing & Research Inc. The firm surveyed 608 residents in five markets where the ads ran.

In Cincinnati, for example, 30 percent of respondents said they were very familiar with the attractions Indianapolis offers, up 10 percentage points from last year. The research found that more than 170,000 trips resulted from the advertising, up from 65,883 last year. And the trips were longer and visitors spent $185 more per trip than they did last year.

“The change seems to have paid off,” Huggard said. “Almost every indicator went up.”

The partners said the buying powers of their combined ad campaign got them better placement than they could have afforded on their own.

“We’d love to do it again,” said Tamara Winfrey Harris, director of communications and marketing for the Eiteljorg.

ICVA pre-bought ad placements for the holiday campaign when it purchased the summer ad space so the new, shorter format will continue for the holidays.

The 10-second ads are doing well because they’re different, offering a short, specific message, according to Richard Shoemaker, who teaches advertising and journalism at Ball State University.

While other cities are pitching longer messages about how wonderful they are, Indianapolis is telling people what they can do.

“You want to be a leader in advertising, not a follower,” Shoemaker said. “You always have to look for what makes your commercial heard above everyone else’s.”

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