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Pinellas targets New York and Chicago
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Visit St. Pete/Clearwater is marketing Pinellas County in New York and Chicago this winter through a variety of methods including a beach message on the side of four double-decker buses in New York and two in Chicago.
REDINGTON SHORES – Beach residents and businesses may well see an increase of visitors from New York and Chicago over the next few months.

At least that’s what the staff of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater is hoping for after investing $1 million in a marketing campaign that targets the two northern cities.

Speaking to members of the Barrier Islands Governmental Council on Jan. 29, D.T. Minich, executive director of the Pinellas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said his staff has designed a program that uses a number of catchy slogans at key locations in those two cities to get their message across.

“What we do is very unique when we market,” Minich said. “Most destinations, when they run a campaign, have one or two slogans that they use nationwide. When we go into New York or Chicago, we customize those messages. We want them to know we understand their markets and we want to talk to them.”

Minich said Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater has purchased advertising space in 800 Subway or Metro cars throughout the New York area.

“We have banners up above in the Subway cars, coming in from Long Island and New Jersey,” Minich said. “When you’re going into the Subway, we have about 48 of these lighted panels throughout Manhattan. So as you walk into the Subway station, you’re going to see the beach message and then when you get in the station you’re going to see it again.”

The message includes a serene beach scene with slogans such as:

• “Manhattan? We’re partial to the margarita”

• “Our daily commute? Walking down to the beach”

• “Wake up in the city that never sleets”

• “New York, New York … warm up, warm up.”

The campaign also includes a beach message on the side of four double-decker buses in New York and two in Chicago.

Also in Chicago, CVB has “taken over” every possible advertising space in the Ogilvie Transportation Center.

“Ogilvie is the connecting station that goes to all the upscale suburbs on the north side,” Minich said. “When I say taken over, we’re on the sides of the escalators and we bought every single advertising space in Ogilvie. We’re even on the floor. When you go up an escalator, it says ‘Winter’s looking up’ and when you come down the escalator it says ‘come down to a warm beach.’”

Among the slogans to be used in the Windy City are:

• “Rush Street? Seriously, what’s the hurry? (with an image of a beach)”

• “We can show you 35 magnificent miles”

• “No Loop but a circular thing called the sun”

• “Chicago, you’ll be bullish about this.”

CVB has also invested in coffee sleeves with such phrases as “Sunshine is the new caffeine.” and “Coffee can only warm you up so much.”

About 200,000 sleeves will be used in Chicago coffee shops and another 80,000 in New York, Minich said.

Just in case the targeted market misses the message in those locations, when commuters reach an elevator they will see it again, or at least think about being in a warmer place.

“We bought every possible elevator (video) screen available in New York and Chicago,” said Minich. “Then at the bottom of the screen, what’s cool is we have real-time temperatures in Chicago and Pinellas County.”

CVB also will experiment with gorilla marketing, an advertising strategy using low-cost unconventional methods, when the next major snow storm hits Chicago or New York.

“We’ve hired a company to go throughout New York and Chicago, at eight different locations in New York and five in Chicago, and they’re going to build huge snow sculptures, like our sand sculptures here,” Minich said. “They’re going to feature a dolphin, a guy (paddle) boarding and palm trees. They’re going to be 6- to 8-feet-tall and they’re in prime locations. This will happen with the next snowstorm. We think this will get a ton of media attention because this hasn’t ever been done before.”

Altogether, Minich said the combined New York-Chicago campaign is expected to create 976 million impressions, which is an online advertising measure of the number of times an ad is seen.

In addition to the New York-Chicago program, CVB has embarked for the first time with a marketing effort in Toronto using such slogans as “Toboggans? We’re riding waves” and “Follow the geese south, they know what they’re doing.”

CVB has also partnered with Florida’s Natural with a message on 12 million cartons of orange juice.

“We have the entire side panel with a chance to win a trip to St. Petersburg/Clearwater,” Minich said. “This will go from now to April. We’ll also be featured in Better Homes and Gardens and Midwest Living.”

The catch phrase for this campaign is “If only they could bottle this feeling. Well here it is in a carton.”

The early results are good, Minich said.

“Our phone lines and our website are going through the roof,” he said. “It’s not only what we’re doing but it’s Mother Nature at its best too.”

As a testimony, beach hotels are almost completely sold out for March.

“We’re near sell-out capacity for March and into April,” Minich said. “It’s a great combination. We’ve had all the bad weather up north, which gets people thinking ‘I’ve got to get out of here for spring break.’ Then Easter is later this year too (April 20) and that helps.”

On other topics, Minich said:

• International travelers, primarily from Germany and the United Kingdom, account for 18 percent of the county’s tourism, which is expected to grow to about 25 percent with COPA Airlines now operating four flights a week from Panama into Tampa. “Latin America is a whole new market and it’s going to open up a lot of opportunities for us,” Minich said.

• Pinellas County will be featured on an episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in May.

• CVB’s 108-page Gulf To Bay magazine will be distributed in the Sunday, March 2 edition of the New York Times and later in the spring in the Florida edition of the New York Times, as well as the Orlando Sentinel, Florida edition of the Wall Street Journal and Tampa Bay Times. Altogether, 525,000 copies of the publication are being distributed this year.
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