Utah tourism officials are more concerned with attracting people who already feel good about the state in 1989 than they are with changing the perceptions of people who don't.
Beginning Feb. 20, residents in 12 Western cities will begin seeing television ads asking them to call a toll-free number to receive free brochures on the wonders of vacationing in Utah. The ads will run for five weeks in Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego and Denver, and four weeks in the other cities."This is the prime planning season for summer vacations," said Michael Gallivan, executive vice president of Harris & Love Inc., an advertising agency that has a contract to promote the state.
Gallivan said Utah has spent 12 years trying to improve its image with residents of the 12 cities. Now it wants to "close the sale" with the direct-response ads that will run at times when television stations have been unable to sell other ads.
The ads, costing more than $500,000, will show Utah as an ideal summer vacation place that is easily accessible to residents in the target cities.
By listing a toll-free number on the commercials, the state can determine how many people respond to the ads each day. Tourism officials then will be able to adjust the commercials to take advantage of times and stations that produce the most responses.
The state tested direct-response ads in San Diego during 16 days last July. An average of 22 people called during each commercial and 3,529 people were sent free brochures.
Harris & Love officials believe the ads will be twice as effective during February and March because of the numbers of families planning summer vacations.
Originally used only by companies selling cheap products, direct-response ads now are seen as an inexpensive alternative for many products that are well-known among consumers, Gallivan said.
Direct-response ads are ineffective for new products trying to establish an image. Television viewers tend to forget the toll-free number as soon as the commercial ends. That's why Utah will air the commercial in cities where officials believe the state already has a good image.
"In the Western United States we've come a very long way in changing Utah's image to something positive," Gallivan said.
Money is a primary consideration. The state no longer can afford to buy guaranteed time slots in the major Western markets, nor can it afford commercials in eastern areas of the country.
The state has received some negative publicity recently, particularly from comedian Rosanne Barr, who has repeatedly told national television audiences that she hated growing up in the state.
However, such negative publicity apparently does little to harm the state's tourism industry, said Joe Rutherford, spokesman for the Utah Tourism Council.
"Tourism is increasing dramatically," Rutherford said. "I'm not aware of anyone calling up and saying they don't want to visit the state because of what Rosanne Barr said."
In addition to television, the state's campaign will include color ads in travel magazines and other publications including Better Homes and Gardens and TV Guide.
The total cost of the ad campaign will be $1 million.