Hammering away at Md. tourism

Ad campaign: The governor pitches in to help attract more fun-seekers to Maryland.

April 03, 2004|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Walking into a room filled with an almost carnival-like set of popcorn, sodas and a TV screen about as tall as a pro basketball player, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. sported his typical dress shirt and tie - and a tool belt.

Ehrlich is no handyman, he assured a crowd gathered for a news conference in Annapolis yesterday. He was there to promote Maryland's latest tourism video, called "Seize the Day Off." The $1.4 million campaign features the governor offering to relieve homeowners of their chores so they can go out and enjoy Maryland hot spots.

"Hi there, Bob Ehrlich, governor of Maryland," he says in the opening of one video as he walks in on an African-American couple installing a ceiling fan in their living room.

"Guys, you're wasting your day off doing house stuff when you can be doing fun stuff in Maryland. Whaddya say you two sneak off to Maryland for a romantic getaway?

"I'll take care of this," Ehrlich continues and then climbs up a ladder and works on the ceiling fan. "Do other governors go this far? I think not."

The state plans to air this and two other commercials in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and locally on cable television.

Tourism generates almost $9 billion for the state and $753 million in state and local taxes annually, according to state tourism and economic officials. In his budget, Ehrlich raised the amount allocated for tourism promotion to $27.8 million for the next fiscal year from $25 million this year.

Dennis M. Castleman, assistant secretary for the state Department of Business and Economic Development, said it took about four hours to produce the videos with the governor and cost $374,000 to produce. The campaign includes $794,000 in media spots, $159,000 on print advertising and $60,000 on Web-based promotions.

"This is a very serious campaign," Castleman said, but added that the governor "really doesn't know how to use those tools."

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