First things first, the new website is now live, check it out here. It’s colorful, comprehensive and light years beyond what the old site was capable of ever achieving. But does it aid in the TDC’s overall goal of rebranding Panama City Beach? Well, maybe not all by itself but as a central component to a whole plan, I think it might do the trick.
During Tuesday’s TDC/CVB meeting unveiled was the highly-anticipated summer campaign. This campaign has been much ballyhooed for the entire off-season, but on Tuesday we actually got to see some of the campaign in action which can all be summed up in one word: Rebranding. Everything within the program is used as a tool to rebrand Panama City Beach as a clean, fun and family-oriented vacation destination. I mean, take a look at the upcoming 30 second commercial ad.
It is without a doubt the best representation of Panama City Beach I’ve ever seen. It’s clean, beautiful and really showcases what’s best about the beach. In fact, you see a nice shot of Pier Park, Shipwreck and what it might be like to visit PCB. Susan Estler, vice president of marketing, said they went from one end of the beach to the other to really give people an experience of PCB. And that’s not stock footage you’re looking at, but real people on Panama City Beach. The activities look exciting, the weather looks great and the voice over talks about Doctors and Lawyers as if to say, “this is what you’re missing by believing PCB is the Redneck Riviera.”
The campaign includes components like a video competition, social media networking, microblogging, but the majority of the efforts will be targeted cable advertising that will be geared towards driving people to the website. Together, these two components (TV and website) should, theoretically, provide potential tourists with enough images, video and interactivity to make them rethink their preconceived notions about our great city as it re-announces itself as the “Real. Fun. Beach.”
The launch date for the campaign is slated for Memorial Day, or at least the days preceding it (May 18 it is set to begin). Now, before you criticize the date saying that Summer is already on us and it’s too late, consider this: The TDC/CVB is strategically tying its launch date with a holiday to help drive people and create a buzz. This holiday strategy will also be the tone for the big “Real. Fun. Contest” which will allow people to determine their beach personality (are you an “after dark shark” or a member of the “sandy bottom bunch?”). The contest is set to coincide with the 4th of July. What should also be considered is although you might think this launch date is a little late for summer, it is just the right time for the new airport. In a year from now people will be flying into Panama City Beach from places that, prior to, may not have known we existed outside of Spring Break. The marketing and advertising campaigns have this in mind. Mike Bennett acknowledged this; “with the new airport coming,” he said, “we have one chance to make a great impression.” And that’s the plan, give a new first impression of Panama City Beach. In fact, the TDC and CVB have already shared in-depth talks about airline advertising including an early jump on advertising through new the on-plane wi-fi systems announced recently by Air Tran.
What may surprise you most about the summer marketing campaign is that its all been done under budget. It should be noted that they own the website, the images, the video–even the b-roll and got it for around $250,000. Coupled with the other marketing dollars spent, that leaves $1.5 million of the marketing budget remaining. After a motion by Marty Mcdaniel, the board decided to meet again before Memorial day to negotiate applying more budget money towards summer marketing, focusing more effort on the tourism window of June and July.
That same budget will be used in Fall and Winter campaigns as well. The opening talks did not go into detail about the Fall and Winter campaigns but did acknowledge a need to frame the time of year rather than focus primarily on events. “We’ll have marquee events,” said Dan Rowe, “but we want to encourage marquee reasons to get away. ‘the weather is good…let’s go.’ [to Panama City Beach].”
All these efforts are betting on the new brand, betting that a new Panama City Beach can be presented to the world and the world will accept Panama City Beach as something other than a Spring Break destination. They’ve set the groundwork for that brand with the new campaign and, theoretically, the world will see us as a “Real. Fun. Beach.” The question remains, though the world may see PCB anew on TV spots and online, what will they find when they actually get here? A new brand is different than a new image…but that’s a topic for another post.
All in all, the campaign should do well. The “Real. Fun. Contest” should create a genuine buzz. I, for one, am excited and encouraged by the efforts being put forth.
More News: March Bed Tax numbers are down from 2008 but up from 2007. Optimism is abound for April’s numbers after the successful Jazz Festival and Skim Jam. Year-to-date (Oct-Mar.) the numbers are up 1.2%.
CVB is spending $65,000 to aid in the enhancement of the beach providing additional beach safety signs and working with Boomer Aviation for flying billboards announcing double red flags. They are also working on a texting program to alert vendors and contributors about flag changes.