California ad campaign promotes on-the-edge image

February 20, 1994|By McClatchy News Service

Have no fear that California ever will become "normal" or "boring" -- at least so far as its tourism advertising is concerned.

Recently the state kicked off a $3 million nationwide television-and-print ad campaign geared to polish California's tarnished image as a vacation destination. Developed under contract with the J. Walter Thompson agency in San Francisco, the campaign includes as a component a new, toll-free telephone number -- (800) GO-CALIF ([800] 462-2543) -- that consumers can call to receive any of four "travel tip sheets" within minutes via fax machine. (They're also available by mail.)

The three-page sheets, focusing on "sports adventures," "family fun and sun," "nature outings" or "romantic getaways," feature suggested destinations or itineraries and include discount coupons for attractions such as Marine World, Universal Studios Hollywood and the San Diego Zoo.

California is the first state to offer tourist information via fax, says Rich Jarc, JWT senior vice president. "The idea is to keep people thinking that California is always on the cutting edge."

He estimates that it will cost the state an average of 80 cents to respond to a fax request.

Four print ads and two television spots focusing on the new service will help get the word out. The TV ads feature a montage of fast-moving images leading up to the 800 number; in one of them, an indirect reference to the state's recent string of disasters reminds viewers that California will never be "normal or boring."

Unveiled last week during the annual California Conference on Tourism, held in Sacramento, the new tourism marketing strategy focuses on the state's overall diversity. It replaces the "Discover the Californias" campaign that had been in place since 1985. That approach divided the state into 12 regions. The new campaign packages the state "according to the specific needs, lifestyles and mind-sets of consumers," said Betsy Shannon of JWT.

The $3 million contract with JWT will eat up a substantial portion of the $7.4 million allocated by the legislature to the state Division of Tourism for this fiscal year. Studies show, however, that for every $1 spent fulfilling requests for visitor information, more than $2 is returned in state tax revenues generated by visitor spending.

Callers to the 800 number, which will operate 24 hours a day, also can ask to receive by mail literature extolling the virtues and attractions of the Golden State.

The basic information packet, which costs the state about $10 to produce but is free to consumers, includes a 146-page Golden California Visitor's Guide and a state road map. Also available are a hotel and motel lodging directory, a guide to California bed-and-breakfast inns, a guide to state parks, an events calendar, a ski guide and regional brochures focusing on 12 separate areas of the state.

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