The Great Escape

Springs Preserve’s marketing hints at success—finally

If you see aspects of your own life in the Springs Preserve’s new commercials, you’ve gotten the message. The ad features a family in a humdrum routine around the house, followed by a peppy montage of the bustling attraction, touting its new tagline as the place “Where Vegas Escapes Vegas.”

The idea was to cast a wider net, showing Las Vegans that it’s a place for everyone, especially families. And the campaign may be doing just that, helping the attraction overcome the summer lull in traffic—visitation was up to 47,000 from 26,000 last summer, partially attributed to an increase in events hosted at the Preserve.

The “Where Vegas Escapes Vegas” print concept rolled out quietly about a year ago, with radio ads popping up this past spring and TV ads finalizing the campaign two weeks ago.

The marketing team says it’s too early to tell if there’s a correlation between the ads and visitation. But what’s for sure is that this is the latest in a line of attempts, some of which have fallen short of getting people to visit. So there’s a lot riding on this $340,000 effort.

“Yeah, obviously. I think this is the effort to try to get people to understand what the Preserve is,” says Scott Huntley, who headed up the campaign on the Preserve’s end, along with local ad agency R&R Partners. “We’re proving that we’re not an elitist attraction, but a community attraction.”

It might seem obvious that a place like the Preserve—home to Gila monster lizards with bright, beady scales and the seemingly Nickelodeon-inspired New Frontier Gallery that teaches kids about sustainability through interactive games—would have been trying to capture the family market all along. But it hasn’t been so.

Past marketing campaigns typically resonated with those interested in education or sustainability issues, says J.C. Davis, another Preserve official who worked on the current campaign. “I’m refocusing it on taking back family time,” he says. “I don’t want people to think, ‘That’s not my kind of place; if I’m not into the environmental movement, I’m not welcome there.’”

The message of escaping Las Vegas is right, the marketing team believes. “And they need a place to escape that won’t take a tremendous amount of dollars,” Huntley says.

And it comes as no surprise that local parents agree. “We spent $600 going to Zion last year. But we won’t be doing that this year,” says Mark Sherwood, publisher of Parents Guide of Las Vegas. Sherwood, who has a family pass, sees the value in offering an easy getaway for families.

And it’s a long-time coming for the Preserve, he says. “They didn’t leverage the fact that there’s an absolute market for quality family entertainment here,” Sherwood says. “If the Springs Preserve doesn’t capture that market, someone else will.”

Beyond families, the Preserve is trying to prove that it’s a meeting place with a community feel for people of all ages and all cultures. “Most of our big places on the Strip just gather people up in a convention center and swallow them up,” Davis says. The Preserve hosted the inaugural Asian Moon Festival last month, bringing in 7,500 visitors. It held a first-of-its kind Grapes and Hops Festival Oct. 9. It’s even catering to the 20-something crowd, hosting its first Beer and Blues Festival this past summer, for which it did much of its marketing through social media, which proved to be a success, Huntley says.

Until this campaign debuted, the only other marketing the Preserve had done was three years ago. The commercial, which had a shelf life of one month, featured a turtle wandering through a psychedelic-looking desert landscape. “You wouldn’t have known what there was to do here,” Huntley admits. So it was back to the drawing board, and the marketing team did focus groups and “interceptive interviews” with passersby.

But UNLV marketing professor Angeline Close says the current message is still a little muddled. “In this 30-second commercial spot, it’s not until about the 25th second that the words ‘Springs Preserve’ come up,” Close points out. She says if the Preserve is trying to be everything to everyone, it shouldn’t try to do it in one commercial. “A solution might be to create a variety of campaigns that speak to different groups and advertise them in appropriate channels,” she says, offering the example of marketing the place as a wedding venue in a bridal magazine, but not in a mass-market commercial. “It’s just very difficult to speak to multiple groups effectively in one 30-second ad,” she says.