LAS VEGAS >> “What happens here, stays here.”
The official slogan of Las Vegas is back by popular demand three months after it was paused following the mass shooting that rattled the city.
The destination’s tourism agency revived the 15-year-old slogan this week in a new ad running online and on several TV networks nationwide, marking a return to normalcy in the city where the backbone industry was directly affected by the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The ad shows some of the city’s iconic casinos as part of a time-travel story line.
Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said the public agency tests its advertising regularly with focus groups and others. It did so after the shooting and results showed the slogan still resonated with people.
“We went back out and we weren’t sure where visitors would be with the mindset around ‘What happens here, stays here,’” she said. “What we heard from our research was that people wanted their Vegas back.”
The ad shows a scientist getting in a time-traveling machine and arriving at the Las Vegas Strip in 2018 in front of the Bellagio casino-hotel fountains. He is shown dining, partying at a nightclub and taking part in a pool party at Caesars Palace casino-hotel before going back in time still holding a cocktail.
Networks airing the ad include Travel Channel, Food Network and USA.
On Oct. 1, a high-stakes gambler killed 58 people and injured hundreds more after he shattered the windows of his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino and unleashed gunfire on a country music festival below before killing himself.
The agency immediately put the “What happens here” motto on hold and went to work creating a new pitch.
A spot featured a cityscape and the voice of Las Vegas native and retired tennis star Andre Agassi. “What is strength?” Agassi asked, playing off the #VegasStrong slogan that exploded on Twitter. “Strength is valet parkers who become medics, mothers who become emergency responders.”
A TV ad that followed and aired on several networks, including ESPN, Fox Sports and Bravo, featured real-life social media messages posted after the shooting.
The destination saw monthly declines in visitation from June through November. December figures are expected to be released at the end of the month.
Larry Kamer, a marketing and public relations consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area, said that while “Vegas Strong” became a rallying cry after the shooting, it would be a mistake for the city to wrap its identity around it any longer than it feels it is necessary.
He added that if “What happens here” continues to evoke sly smiles and tested better than any other alternatives, it’s a safe bet.
“The campaign works because it’s playful, it’s kind of a wink, an inside joke, and it draws on the old Sin City element of Las Vegas,” he said. “If it can still elicit that feeling and the shooting didn’t fundamentally change that, I would argue it still works.”