Reinventing Miami's image

Kevin Cowherd

October 18, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

After a ninth foreign tourist was slain recently in Florida, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau last week did what needed to be done. It hired a public relations firm.

# -- Washington Post.

To: Greater Miami CVB.

From: Richard O. Pillo and Associates.

Re: Reshaping the image of South Florida.

Dear Sirs,

First, many thanks for retaining our firm. Our goal now is to counter the negative image of Miami as, to use your words, the "Dodge City of the Tropics."

Frankly, our task won't be easy. As you know, we were similarly retained by the city of New York in the wake of the World Trade Center bombing. While our ad campaign ("New York -- Our Other Tall Buildings Aren't Charred!") proved modestly successful, fear, like the smell of nitroglycerin, lingers in the Big Apple.

Tourism figures remain low; sadly, too many fussy travelers are allowing exorbitant hotel and restaurant prices and a few hundred thousand muggers, hookers and crack dealers to influence their vacation plans.

Nevertheless, we've developed a bold, three-tiered approach to solving Miami's problems:

Step 1: We propose a series of TV commercials built around the slogan: "Miami -- It's Not that Bad!"

These commercials would focus on your city's natural beauty and aquatic charm, interspersed with shots of smiling, waving Miamians, many of them unarmed. (If enough citizens can't be found without side holsters or the tell-tale sweat shirt bulge that signals a 9mm in a waistband, perhaps some of the filming could be done in San Diego or Tucson.)

PTC With these spots, we hope to convey the message that, although Miami is often portrayed as a festering wasteland plagued by drug wars and psychotic hoodlums, it is also home to dozens of decent people not connected to the narcotics trade.

In other words: "Don't be a baby! C'mon down, the weather's great!"

Step 2: We hope to introduce an intensive ad campaign specifically designed to attract foreign tourists from such "trouble spots" as Bosnia, Angola, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, etc.

Our thinking is: Compared to the violence the people of these countries have experienced, Miami will seem positively tranquil and idyllic.

We daresay that if a hardy group of, oh, Bosnian Muslims was standing outside the Sheraton and one of their members was gunned down in a senseless drive-by shooting, the thinking would be: "Well, we lost Georgi, but that's no reason not to take in Sea World as originally planned."

As another example, if a delegation of Belfast IRA regulars were set upon by pistol-packing thugs inside Joe Robbie Stadium, the IRA force would no doubt pull out their own weapons, squeeze off a few rounds and go back to watching the ballgame.

Let's face it, this is the type of tourist Miami wants to attract: bold, adventurous, not squeamish about small-arms fire. People who won't stay holed up in their hotel rooms wailing and wringing their hands each and every time someone close to them is shot, but who will be out in the bars, restaurants and theaters spending money.

Step 3: At Pillo and Associates, we believe in turning negatives into positives whenever possible.

Instead of bemoaning the crime wave washing over your fair city, why not put it to good use?

Let the armies of the world know that Miami's streets could serve as an excellent training site for urban guerrilla warfare. Recently, U.S. armed forces were engaged in bitter house-to-house fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia; wouldn't the presence of 10,000 or so troops in Miami a few months earlier have boosted the economy?

But don't stop there. Invite combat doctors and nurses to study the gaping wounds caused by the modern weaponry carried by Miami's criminals.

Schedule conventions designed to attract "Soldiers of Fortune," organized crime cartels, leftist insurrectionists, etc.

Soon Miami would be a truly exciting city, teeming with thousands of drunken, free-spending soldiers and sailors, survivalist kooks, cults, mercenaries, international terrorists and ne'er-do-wells.

Instead of whining about the PR "black eye" Miami has suffered, by God, puff up your chests and shout: "Yes, this is a dangerous city. We welcome your business!"

"Miami: Come See Us -- If You Have The Guts!"

Has a nice ring to it, eh? We welcome your input.

Warmest regards,

Pillo and Associates.

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