2011-02-12 / News

Mackinac Island To Be Featured in its Own Pure Michigan Ad

By Karen Gould

The newly formed Mackinac Island Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) has teamed up with Travel Michigan to launch a million dollar Pure Michigan advertising program that focuses on one destination, Mackinac Island. The Island will be the subject of the first single-destination Pure Michigan national television ad.

The advertisement will air this spring on cable stations across the country, introducing viewers to Mackinac Island with a sweeping aerial view of the harbor, Grand Hotel, Arch Rock, and the Mackinac Bridge, with each vista highlighting the clear blue water of Lake Huron.

Like all Pure Michigan ads, the footage is from an eye-level perspective and, in this case, the viewers will have a glimpse of horses, carriages, Grand Hotel’s porch, and the architecture of Main Street, all to entice them to visit the Island. The well known voice of all of the Pure Michigan ads, actor Tim Allen, sets the stage by beckoning viewers with the words, “Haven’t we all always wanted our own island...”

The national advertising campaign is being funded with $500,000 from the CVB and $500,000 in matching funds from Travel Michigan, the marketing arm of the state. The CVB, which formed last summer, is funded by overnight guests who are assessed 2% of their room charge, a practice also carried out in other Michigan communities.

When state legislation was passed in the early 1980s allowing communities to form convention and visitors bureaus, a specific provision in that law excluded Mackinac Island. Then, Grand Hotel had reservations about how well it would work for the Island and, therefore, they wanted to keep Mackinac Island out of the program, said Dennis Cawthorne, who helped put the new CVB together last summer.

About a year ago, Mr. Caw- thorne urged hoteliers to back new legislation that would wipe out the old exemption, and at their request, former Senator Jason Allen introduced the bill.

“To Grand Hotel’s great credit, they agreed times had changed and Mackinac Island needed to become much more competitive and, to do that, it would take the kind of funding that this legislation would generate,” said Mr. Cawthorne.

As for the legislation, he said, “It ran into various unforeseen snags in the process, but we were eventually successful in getting the bill through the legislature and signed by the governor.”

With the new legislation passed in June, the majority of owners of hotels with 10 or more rooms agreed to create the bureau.

The CVB has 19 members responsible for approximately 1,500 guest rooms. Lodging facilities with fewer than 10 rooms are eligible to join now that the organization has formed.

“It’s been my view for a very long time “The Island that Mackinac Island’s whole, not tourism promotion individual has been way really operated underfunded,” said nickels and Mr. Cawthorne. “We and chewing didn’t have the resources, heretofore and the only of promotion. way to do it was to changes everything.” form the CVB and levy the tax.” Dennis

“The Island as a Mackinac whole, not including individual hotels, has really operated on nickels and dimes and chewing gum heretofore in the area of promotion,” he said. “This changes everything.”

Todd Callewaert of the Island House said the CVB’s comprehensive plan to promote the Island through television and social media should create new and renewed interest in the Island by travelers looking for a unique and unforgettable vacation experience.

“Mackinac Island has been flat over the years and there’s a lot of opportunity to get our name out there more,” he said.

The campaign will be significant for the Island, he said, and will take its message beyond southeast Michigan.

“This will spread out throughout the whole country,” he said. “Mackinac needs to grow, and I think this will go a long way toward it.”

With the new census showing Michigan to be the only state to lose population in the last 10 years, Grand Hotel President R. Daniel Musser III said the national ad campaign is just in time, and is needed to draw new visitors to the Island. The television advertising program, he said, could not be done without the Pure Michigan partnership.

“We’re very excited about it,” he said. “One, that the state thinks so highly of us. Two, based on the latest census, the numbers in Michigan, our main markets are starting to diminish and we need to look outside our traditional markets. All that being said, we’re not going to forget southeast Michigan, Grand Rapids, Lansing, all those great markets that serve the Island, but, looking ahead, we need to expand our brand to a larger market. This is going to enable us to do it in a way we couldn’t afford.”

At the state level, retaining the funding support for the Pure Michigan campaign has been a struggle. Since 2009, when the national Pure Michigan campaign was launched with a $30 million budget, it has been reduced by $20 million. In 2010, the campaign had $17 million in support, and just last month, the state approved $10 million for 2011.

Mr. Musser is hopeful the benefits of the program will receive a financial infusion from the new administration in Lansing.

“The new governor has been very outspoken about funding Pure Michigan,” said he said of Gov. Rick Snyder, “and if our partnership works as well as we think it’s going to work, I think that this could be hopefully a long term relationship with the State of Michigan... What he has said, both publicly and privately to me, about his support of the program, his thought is that anything that shows a rate of return, the state should be involved in, and this does. I think that we’ve got a significant ear going forward and we’ve just got to make sure the ads are good and continue to work, which we’re going to do.”

Pure Michigan is providing the state with a return on its investment, said George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan, the agency in charge of the marketing campaign and a division of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

“We always go back to the return on investment research we do every year,” said Mr. Zimmermann. “Our mission in life is not to win awards, it’s to get visitors.”

From 2006 to 2009, about $32 million was spent to promote Pure Michigan in other states. That in- vestment, said Mr. Zimmermann, drew 5 million visitors who spent $1.3 billion at Michigan businesses and paid about $93 million in Michigan sales tax through their spending. The state got back $2.94 in sales tax for each dollar spent in Pure Michigan advertising, said Mr. Zimmermann.

Starting in 2008, Pure Michigan developed a partnership marketing program with communities around the state. In the summer of 2010, 26 communities participated, including Mackinac Island through the Tourism Bureau. When the Pure Michigan national ad campaign began in 2009, the television commercials focused on stimulating travel to Michigan in general and the effort was not directed to one area or destination. That changes this year with the Island-specific ad.

“For us, Mackinac Island was the first place we presented the idea because it was the first place we thought would make the most sense to do this,” Mr. Zimmermann said. “It’s the quality of the destination, the uniqueness of the destination, and the national appeal it already has. We just knew that we could build on that. Not every destination in Michigan has the tourism product to attract visitors for lengthy trips, but, certainly, Mackinac does. A destination like Mackinac Island can attract visitors from all over the country, and now we have the opportunity jointly, both Mackinac Island and us, to get the word out specifically about that Pure Michigan experience that is Mackinac Island.”

He admits that most people across the country do not know about Mackinac Island, but he believes the location, beauty, and climate will be appealing, especially to those in southern states where the summer heat can be stifling.

“The summer we’re used to, that just seems like a normal summer to us, is an exceptional summer for somebody who is basically baking and sweltering all summer long south of us,” he said. “I point to Mackinac as the quintessential example of a fabulous destination for really what we see as the perfect summer, the perfect summer vacation.”

In addition to the advertising, Mackinac Island will have the advantage of social media sites and public relations efforts and electronic newsletters. The Pure Michigan Facebook page has more than 182,000 fans.

“These people are not signing up to be a fan of Travel Michigan or the State of Michigan or the MEDC,” said Mr. Zimmermann. “They’re signing up as a fan of what they conceive Pure Michigan to stand for and what Pure Michigan is as a destination. If you read their comments, it’s kind of fascinating how people have rallied around this concept of Michigan. That’s another example of Pure Michigan, how the brand changed everything for us.”

The purpose of the social digital media in the plan, said Tim Hygh, executive director of the Mackinac Island CVB, is to target people likely to travel and stay on the Island. Using research already conducted by McCann Erickson, geographical location, age of visitors, and income levels will be included in the mix. Also, organizers on the Island are hoping blogs, Facebook pages, and comments will be “We're very effective to bring about it. One, even more people the state thinks the Island. highly of

“People seem to based on the trust opinions of census, the those who have in Michigan, visited an area or main markets, restaurant more starting to than a professional and we need whose job it is to outside our promote the markets. place,” said Mr. that being Hygh, “and that is we're not the strength of social forget southeast media and Michigan, why it has become Rapids, Lansing, effective. The key those great is to engage people that serve so they can help but, looking paint that picture we need to and that brand for our brand the Island.” market. This

Of the people going to enable who come to the to do it in Island for day trips couldn't afford.” or overnight stays, each have specific characteristics, he Grand said. Research shows that those arriving on a day trip have a checklist of places they plan to visit and things they want to do. The people who spend the night arrive with a different agenda, said Mr. Hygh. Rather than a checklist, the visit is more experiential, with a focus on relaxation and rejuvenation.

Converting day visitors to overnight guests, a goal of the

CVB, isn’t always likely, so the national advertising spot is hoped to bring new visitors to the Island. excited “What we are that trying to do is develop so an emotional us. Two, tie to the Island so latest there are no barriers numbers when we engage our them to spend the are night,” Mr. Hygh diminish said. With the to look music, Tim Allen’s traditional voice, and the beautiful All scenery, he said, said, “I really think going to we’ll be successful in developing that

Grand emotional tie.” all Even for the staff markets at McCann Erickson, the Island, the Island has ahead, created an emotional expand tie, said to a larger Christie Cowan, is vice president us group account director way we for the Travel

Michigan account

R. Daniel with McCann Erickson. Musser III,

Hotel “In 2006, the Island was our first day of our first shoot to shoot film for Pure Michigan,” she recalled.

The Pure Michigan campaign has won awards, and was named one of the best travel campaigns worldwide.

“We get unsolicited e-mails from consumers,” said Ms.

Cowan. “We now have a bank of thousands, and 99% of them are not only positive, but gushing with love. We get them every day and we share them. That’s how we start our day. It’s really quite nice.”

A team from the Birmingham office of the agency created the

Pure Michigan television ads and they continue to work on the account. Mark Canavan, senior vice president and group creative director, wrote the copy for the

Mackinac Island television commercial. He has written most of the Pure Michigan ads, said Ms.

Cowan.

“We have this small team of about 10 people who have worked on this from day one,” said Ms. Cowan. “It is our every day. It is our life. We eat, sleep, and drink Pure Michigan. We’re very proud of it. For the entire agency overall, which is about

200 people, it really is the star of the agency... From a creative standpoint we were thrilled to create a spot just about Mackinac Island, which is really the epitome of Pure Michigan.”

The agency is working on two projects for the Island. In addition to the advertising partnership between the Island and Travel Michigan, a program is underway working with the CVB. That project is to create a regional campaign, which will include a redesigned Web site, mackinacisland.org, and that work is being spearheaded by Mary Slevin, executive director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau.

“A lot of people were concerned that the CVB was putting the Tourism Bureau out of business,” she said, “but that’s not true at all. In fact, it’s shoring us up. It’s just going to make everything so much stronger.”

The Tourism Bureau will continue doing everything it has in the past, including managing the Web site, publications, events, press releases, festivals, and the ongoing promotion of Mackinac Island by bringing in film crews and writers. On a day-to-day basis, the Tourism Bureau handles social media, answers phone inquires, and staffs the information booth on Main Street in the summer. Behind the scenes, the bureau has brought cable shows to the Island, including “Dirty Jobs” in 2007 and “Ghost Hunters,” which is scheduled to film on the Island this month.

“One thing we’ve always lacked for marketing was money, and now with this 2% tax, we’ll finally be able to get the word out about Mackinac Island through an amazing ad agency,” said Mrs. Slevin. “I think that is really, really important. We’re going to be able to put Mackinac Island on a national stage.”

The first step has been taken to secure another $10 million in funding for Pure Michigan nationally, as the money was approved unanimously by the House Natural Resources, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation committee February 8. Along with $5 million from the state’s general fund, this would put campaign funding at $25.4 million for this year. The bill will go through the house and next will come before the senate. Congressman Frank Foster chairs the committee. Governor Rick Snyder has also said he supports more funding for the campaign.

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