OCEAN CITY – Rodney the Lifeguard is going on tour, and he’s headed for the big city.
One could call MGH’s new advertising idea a shameless publicity stunt or just call it a fun gimmick to create a buzz in some of Ocean City’s metropolitan target markets, but in late June, Rodney the Lifeguard will literally set up his lifeguard chair in the heart of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. to help promote the town as a vacation destination.
Chris McMurray of MGH Advertising, the town’s contracted marketing firm, briefed the Tourism Commission last week on a new idea from MGH to coincide with the town’s $3.7 million ad campaign that launched this week in five metropolitan markets. McMurray said the goal in taking the lifeguard character to these highly trafficked areas is to create a buzz amongst business folks in the cities on their lunch breaks.
“We wanted to find ways to bring Rodney to life and get the most out of this character that we have created to promote the town of Ocean City,” said McMurray. “We want to make these events something that people talk about and gets the media in those cities interested in what’s happening here.”
Essentially, Rodney, portrayed by New York City-based actor/model Blake Adams, will set up a lifeguard stand in the heart of heavily populated business districts in the three cities and remind people in a comical way that they need to take a vacation more than ever before to get a break from the daily stress.
“They’ve got a lot of beaches near to Philadelphia, and we want to stay top of mind, and we think this is a stunt that might prove to be very effective up there,” said McMurray.
In addition to Rodney’s presence, there could be some local scopers who go along on the trips, taking pictures of business people with Rodney and helping to distribute random prizes and other giveaways.
Tentatively called the “Ocean City Experience”, MGH hopes to team up with radio stations in the respective cities to “essentially take over” these business districts and put on a mini-Ocean City-type festival that will help promote the town as it heads into its peak season, which many businesses rely on to make a profit for the year.
“We want to give the campaign a few weeks to run so that people start to get familiar with Rodney as a character,” said McMurray, “but having him in these cities will create an interesting juxtaposition from the hectic schedule of the workday to the relaxation and fun offered in Ocean City.”
Rodney will actually make his first public appearance in Ocean City during Beachfest, which is slated for the third weekend in June, as a way for MGH to gauge his performance and interaction with the public.
“We are very confident that he’ll be great, just as he was when we shot the campaign,” said McMurray, “but we are going to be sending him into a slightly different situation with real-life interactions with people. We want to make sure he’s great with the local people before we send him to the three big cities.”
Having Rodney at Beachfest will also help familiarize the locals with the character who is seemingly the face of the town to the masses, according to McMurray.
“Getting to meet the guy in person will definitely be nice for people who are at Beachfest, and with him being a lifeguard, it’s a perfect tie-in with all the events of Beachfest,” he said.
The publicity stunt will certainly be an eye-catcher as the simple contrast of a lifeguard stand sitting in the urban jungle will more than likely be a “head turner”, but it seems to be MGH’s hope to get the most out of the money they are paying to the actor who plays Rodney and play on his talents as a comedic performer.
“The positive benefit of this is simply added exposure, and it will give the mayor something fun to talk about when he goes on his publicity tours,” said McMurray, “but, most importantly, doing this matches the tone of the year which is bringing the message of fun to the cities and reminding people to come to Ocean City and take a vacation.”
In addition, look for the town to have an increasingly large presence in the free mediums of both Facebook and Twitter as the season starts to hit its stride.
“We’ve got over a thousand friends on both Facebook and Twitter in only about a week of having the accounts live,” said McMurray. “When I first heard about it, I thought Twitter was the most narcissistic thing on the planet, but there must be a lot of narcissists in this world, because Twitter grew by almost 1,500-percent in the first quarter this year.”