Ad Agency Contract Talk Leads To Summer Tourism Evaluation

OCEAN CITY – Things are looking good for the town’s ad agency as a preliminary discussion on renewing its contract focused this week on the positives of the recent and current campaigns.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas reminded the Mayor and City Council that by the end of this month a discussion needs to take place on the renewal of the town advertising agency MGH’s contract when an informal conversation ensued on whether the firm’s work is resulting in the food and room tax being on a constant rise.

Council Secretary Lloyd Martin immediately pointed out room tax was up by 6.5 percent last year, collecting over $12.5 million, and that the only month to result in a decline in room tax was last August when Hurricane Irene came to town and Ocean City lost an entire weekend of business.

“I think that is partly because of the advertising … I think somebody has done a good job getting the people here,” Martin said.

Martin furthered that other draws to Ocean City is the town has kept a constant schedule of free events and activities for visitors to enjoy adding value to their vacation.

“We need to continue what we’re doing … I think everything is working,” he said.

Councilman Brent Ashley asserted that even though room and food tax collections are on the rise demoflush figures need to be kept in mind. Demoflush figures are estimations on the population in Ocean City based on wastewater flow from Ocean City provided by the Ocean City Wastewater Division and calculated by the OC Tourism Department.

“If the demoflush figures are even or less, that means that there are less people but you’re charging them more money for the rooms and for the food,” Ashley said. “Even though last year when we had the hurricane, we had perfect weather all last summer, so we should have surpassed even before that weekend.”

Mayor Rick Meehan took more of an optimistic look at the season.

“My glass is half full rather than half empty and I know when I look at the room tax was up 14.5 percent in June and not only that but food tax was up 7 percent that shows that the people are not only here but they are spending while they are here,” Meehan said.

The mayor added that in conversations with hoteliers, the opinion is that room tax has increased because of the deals being provided on hotel stays, not because of an increase in rates.

City Manager David Recor said at the last Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) meeting the committee had a similar discussion, acknowledged the efforts of MGH and supported moving forward with the agency.

In October of 2010, the Mayor and City Council voted to renew its contract with MGH for another two years. This October will mark a 10-year run of the partnership.

Two years ago, Ocean City’s Tourism Commission, which is now essentially TAB, completed the agreement, which was believed to be worth around $300,000. The agreement was that MGH will continue to provide the town with advertising, media buying, public relations, social media and interactive services for the resort through 2012.

Over the last decade, MGH has come up with a number of advertising campaigns, such as the “Rodney” campaign, featuring a spokesman for the resort acting as a lifeguard, as well as the “Summer of Thanks” initiative. This year, “Rodney” expanded on his efforts to “rescue” people all over the East Coast from boredom by encouraging them to visit Ocean City during the summer. In addition, MGH has helped Ocean City develop its iPhone and Android smartphone apps and assisted in helping the resort surpass 400,000 fans on its Facebook page, the most of any East Coast beach destination, tourism officials report.