Maybe it's the glitz or the nickname Sin City that makes Las Vegas second only to New York as the favorite destination for most American gay men and women. But Vegas is coordinating a pursuit of the gay market more aggressive than anywhere else.
The Las Vegas Convention & Visitor's Authority, along with individual casino hotels including New York-New York, Luxor and Treasure Island, and the popular Cirque du Soleil show, are working together to attract more gay tourists. And this September, Harrah's Entertainment joins too by launching a gay variation on a provocative mainstream campaign for the Paris Las Vegas Hotel, "Everything's sexier in Paris."
In it, two playing cards (both Jacks) are laid on top of a poker table, but one Jack has abandoned the face of his card to crowd onto the other Jack's card, caressing his hair and gazing into his eyes. The campaign is intended to be "sexy, passionate, seductive and playful," says Michael Weaver, VP of marketing for the seven-year-old Paris.
The Paris ads were created locally by R&R Partners, also behind the popular "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" campaign. It is the first ad into the gay market from a Harrah's property, which also owns Caesar's Palace, Rio, Flamingo, Bally's and others.
MGM Mirage Has A Four-Year Lead
Competitor MGM Mirage has three hotels already advertising in gay media, including New York-New York, Luxor and Treasure Island. Over four years ago, New York-New York paved Vegas' way into gay media, with an ad featuring three men from the gay neighborhood Chelsea. That hotel, home of the show Zumanity, was soon joined by a gay-targeted ad from Cirque du Soleil showing two men in an erotic embrace. A new one from New York-New York in August publications now pictures a man in bed provocatively noting, "Luck isn't always a lady."
Sister property Treasure Island recently joined the fray with an ad picturing a man in black leather pants and a guy clinging to him. Another MGM Mirage hotel, Luxor, shows two men swimming with clothes on and hugging. Brown & Partners Advertising handles all MGM Mirage ads in the gay market.
Travel related advertising is already smoking hot, with a broad-based pursuit of the estimated $65 billion U.S. gay travel market including Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. visitors bureaus, overseas destinations from Barcelona to Vienna, along with long-term efforts from major hotels, airlines, cruise lines, travel booking sites, and more. On the East Coast, the independently owned Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City also started dedicated gay advertising in 2003.
Yet top gay destinations New York City and San Francisco take their popularity for granted, perhaps creating opportunity for others.
San Francisco-based Community Marketing Inc. discovered Vegas is already highly ranked as a gay destination, despite its modest infrastructure of gay-owned businesses compared to other popular destinations. Gay visitors want to "participate in the casino scene, resorts scene, and shows. We don't think a lack of gay bars, restaurants, or hotels is a hindrance at all," says Terry Jacinsky, senior VP-marketing for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitor's Authority.
Creating synergy with the hotels efforts, the Las Vegas convention bureau has launched its own $300,000 multimedia campaign, including a float in New York's Gay Pride Parade this year. The bureau's general market print ad running in gay media, also from R&R, uses Vegas glitz by showing a lint roller picking up a fake eyelash, pink feather and glitter.
Las Vegas's gay market efforts are driven by a search for revenue growth. The city already has the world's most hotel rooms at 133,000 (compared to New York City's 60,000), but expecting to grow to 170,000 by 2010. Yet filling rooms isn't seen as a problem -- hotels all want more upscale consumers who take advantage of extras.
"Gays and lesbians are already our customers," Weaver notes, but Harrah's, like others, wants to grow its share along with revenues. "We know gay and lesbian travelers will spend more on a hotel room and are more motivated by the location of the hotel and its amenities."
Punam Mathur, senior VP of corporate diversity and community affairs at MGM Mirage, says, "Treasure Island was built a decade ago with a pirate theme. It has redefined itself in the marketplace to be young, dynamic, hip and cool, and GLBT was a natural market segment." Similarly, Luxor is undergoing a personality revision. "The pyramid has a powerful façade but no identity."
Now the hotels are betting on the gay market to win them some flair points, and crowd the spas and shows. So long as they avoid sameness in approach, Las Vegas represents an impressive example of what can happen when businesses coordinate to make a bigger advertising bang that could lead to a larger overall jackpot for everyone.