OCEAN CITY – The “proof was in the pudding” that the town should continue with its familiar ad campaign, Rodney Saves, and this year’s new commercials were presented.
“Rodney the Lifeguard” commercials have surfaced over the last couple of years saving people from their everyday lives to bring them on vacation in Ocean City.
In past discussions, City Council members have questioned whether Rodney Saves has served its purpose and whether it’s time to move onto a different concept to bring visitors to Ocean City.
Andy Malis, president of MGH, the town’s advertising firm, presented evidence that Rodney can still benefit the resort.
“So the question is: should we continue with Rodney?,” Malis said. “In order to make that decision, we took a very methodical approach this year and more than we have ever done before.”
Malis explained that when deciding whether to continue with an advertising campaign the risk should be balanced with the reward.
“You have to be careful not to cut something short while it’s still performing,” he said. “Because if you change direction you are obviously hoping to do better then you were doing before, but you are also risking the equity you built in whatever you have done already.”
A couple of weeks ago, evidence came forward that gave Malis and town officials the confidence to move forward with the ad campaign. Survey results were presented from Equation Research, which resulted in overwhelming support of the Rodney campaign.
According to the survey, Ocean City generates more ad awareness than any of its competitors.
“So far we feel pretty good about the results that came back and the research which validated the performance of the campaign,” Malis said.
Other data reviewed was the public’s use of the town’s website, ococean.com. Malis explained that in every piece of advertising produced the town’s website, ococean.com, is promoted. In the last year, the number of people that have visited the website is up 44 percent, which is the highest year-over-year increase the page has ever had.
“It’s been an upward trend and we think this campaign is growing momentum,” Malis said.
Also, ococean’s page views were studied. According to Malis, page views are also up by 19 percent. Malis said best of all 1.8 million of the website’s visits were directed toward the accommodations page.
“Again, this is an indication that our marketing is working because people find out about ococean.com almost entirely through the marketing,” he said.
The final statistic Malis presented was said to be a “point of pride”. He said that ococean’s Facebook page is followed by a little over 360,000 fans, which is higher than any of Ocean City’s competing resorts.
In April, MGH met with TAB and brainstormed ideas for future Rodney commercials. According to Malis, TAB was in favor of continuing with Rodney at that time. In August, MGH presented eight commercials to TAB and TAB made suggestions to improve the commercials and recommended proceeding with two concepts.
Those two commercials were presented this week. The first was titled “Air Traffic”. Malis explained that while brainstorming for commercial ideas a few TAB members thought it was worth taking a look at alternative kinds of vacations and tacking into some of the discomfort or difficulty in traveling with family and have Ocean City be the solution.
“One of the things that came to the floor was how difficult it is to fly in particularly with your family and kids,” Malis said. “The most powerful advertising there is shared experiences and there isn’t anyone who hasn’t been annoyed with air travel.”
The second commercial was titled, “Thanks Rodney”. In the last couple of years, Rodney has been saving others to bring them on vacation. This commercial presents all those Rodney has saved by thanking him. In the end, Rodney thanks all Ocean City visitors, which fits along with the town’s 2012 Thank You campaign that is currently in the works.
“This is the first time I have seen either one of these and I really like both of them,” Councilwoman Mary Knight said.
Councilman Joe Hall said the data presented is sound but in past discussions with Malis he recalled speaking about a time of transition away from Rodney.
“As you know, I have been a local critic of the Rodney campaign in the past,” he said. “To me, this doesn’t get us to the next phase or to the next idea.”
Malis said that the decision to continue with the Rodney campaign should be decided on a year-to-year basis. He added that he has rarely seen an ad campaign survive longer than five years. The Rodney campaign is entering its fourth year next year and that may be the time to start thinking about a transition.
“But for this year, as of right now, this is what I would strongly recommend on going with for one more year,” he said.
Councilwoman Mary Knight made the motion to accept the two new commercials for this upcoming year and the Mayor and City Council voted unanimously approved.
“I think really for me the proof is in the pudding,” Council President Jim Hall said. “The increases and now the hits that we’re getting with interest in Ocean City, it seems to be working.”