What’s in this article:
- It’s Time for New York City – a new campaign has been launched for the city, and here’s what relationship marketers can learn from it
The pandemic has had a huge economic impact. For businesses like Amazon and eCommerce in general, it was a huge boon. But for the tourism industry, things were very bad.
New York City suffered a tremendous drop in the infusion of spending that it normally gets from tourism. This past April, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli shared the numbers.
The tourism industry plummeted by 73% in the past year as a result of tourism bringing in 43.7 fewer people than the previous year. In terms of dollars, we’re talking a drop from $80.3 billion worth of spending in 2019 to a mere $20.2 billion in 2020 for all visitors to the city and just $13 billion from tourists. As a result, the city lost $1.2 billion in tax revenue for that fiscal year.
It’s not just the city that lost out but the industry that caters to tourists. Thousands of restaurants were forced to close due to lockdown measures and were never able to reopen due to lack of demand. Many hotels also closed their doors forever.
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Obviously, this is not sustainable for a city known as one of the top tourist destinations and is certainly in need of the money they bring in. That’s why DiNapoli’s recommendations included tourism promotion through NYC & Company. Accordingly, already in April, NYC planned a $30 million marketing campaign to bring tourists back this summer.
The NYC campaign: goals and strategy
The tagline for this campaign – the biggest to date – is “It’s Time for New York City.” The yellow and red poster centers on the Statue of Liberty, which can be clearly seen even in the truncated versions, as in the banner for the NYCgo site copied above.site copied above.
The full-length banner also highlights the Empire State Building, the Apollo, Broadway, the Bronx Zoo, and the distinctive building that houses the Guggenheim Museum is meant to convey energy along with what tends to draw tourists here. (Really, though the Met draws a lot more tourists interested in art than the Guggenheim, and the Museum of Natural History likely is the biggest museum attraction in the city).
The agency for the campaign, NYC&Co explained that its goal is “to welcome 36.1 million visitors this year—recapturing more than half of its record 66.6 million visitors in 2019.” They estimate that 10 million are to come in the summer alone. To achieve that, they intend to remind people of the “unrivaled energy, excitement, and the abundance of life, endless experiences and resiliency” to be found in the city.
In June, the first phase of this campaign launched in advertising that the city has reopened, making people aware that many closed attractions last year did open again in the spring or the summer. Also, some of the restrictions on number of people allowed or shortened hours put into effect by the governor have lifted.
It’s to move into the second phase with nationally run commercials in early July with a blatant appeal to FOMO, demanding, “Where Were You in the Summer of ’21?” The videos for that are intended to not only show energy but “homecoming to normalcy, underscoring the return of FOMO and driving that message of urgency.”
This is exemplified in this YouTube video that opens with happy-looking, unmasked people calling out, “We are open!” and ends with a man saying, “New York is back, baby!”
The third phase of the campaign is to bring it to international markets with global media partner JC Decaux. The tagline will be translated into Spanish as “New York City, El Momento es Ahora” for the Mexican market. It will also be adapted for Canada and some Latin American countries. This isn’t completely firmly set because international travel restrictions set by countries in the UK and Europe remain unresolved.
Even though Broadway is only scheduled to reopen to the public in the fall, those speaking for the theater industry are extremely optimistic:
“The city is coming to life with more entertainment than we’ve had in 16-18 months, so there’s more to enjoy with new announcements every day,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League, told MarketWatch. “The industry sentiment is that there’s such pent-up demand and that theatergoers are ready to return to theaters.”
True, those who hungered for live theater and had to make do with just live streaming will likely buy tickets. However, the Broadway blockbusters require a full house to make a profit, and to get that requires throngs of tourists.
The lure of a free NYC Vacation
One way to get people excited about a vacation destination is to offer the chance to win it free. The NYC campaign did just that, serving this ad on Facebook:
New York City is coming alive right now. Enter for a chance to win an epic vacation—so one day you can say, “I was there.”
The great thing about social media is that you can see reactions to campaigns, and some of the ones here show that the optimism of people returning for the theater and other major attractions has some basis. See the comment below:
Jayne Wiggins Jones: Yes, can’t wait to see a play… nothing better than live theatre. Visit museums, great food and shopping. I NY!
But the majority of the comments point out that it may take more than creating a sense of urgency and FOMO to make people want to come back when the news keeps reporting on increasing crime, including shootings in Times Square, one of the places that tend to draw tourists. That is what prompts the flurry of negative comments one can see on that Facebook post:
Brenda Johnson Bracken: Not until the city is cleaned up. It’s A crime ridden pit right now!
Dre Carter: Flying bullets, dirty needles, and panhandlers galore oh my!!!! Can’t wait to book this EPIC vacation
Frank Ball: Violent crime is surging and the Police will not help you!
Donna Carbonaro: you couldn’t pay me enough!
Al Amelio: Yeah right! Crime is rampant!
James Breeden: Staying far away from that death trap!!
Sandy Frey: I was there and I can wait
Richard Farry: No thanks
The combination of the negative comments here and the lack of even a single comment on the YouTube video shared above (though it has been up since June 25 and garnered 60,196 views and 12 likes) indicates that for at least some segments of the population – people need more assurance of their personal safety if they are to return to the city.
Not quite back to normal
Another issue about the campaign is that NYC is not truly back to what it was pre-pandemic. While the video shows no one wearing a mask, that is not what you see when you travel to the city. Despite the fact that every adult who would like to be vaccinated has had access to the shots now, quite a few continue to wear masks even outside, and even more children appear masked even out of doors.
While New York State did lift its mask mandate on indoor spaces, they are still required in the museums, on public transportation, and even outdoors at zoos. Given that vaccines aren’t recommended for children, the lingering concerns over COVID mean that many of them will remain masked, and it appears that camps in the city require them.
Also, those attractions featured in the ads are not quite as accessible as indicated. You used to be able to just show up at the museum, zoo, etc., and buy a ticket on the spot. That is no longer the case. Visitors still have to order their timed tickets ahead of time for most places as a strategy to control crowds and get contact information for contact tracing.
Sure, one can adjust one’s plans accordingly. Nevertheless, it is disingenuous to reassure tourists that the city experience is what they’re showing in the videos.
That’s why for this NYC brand refresh, I would have opted for a different direction. To convey that the city is worth visiting – even though it is altered – I’d have shown what you do see (including masked visitors at the attractions) and have opted for a tagline like “Fall in love with NYC again.” Well, they can still use it for the fall with an appropriate seasonal pun.
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