The Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau is ditching its six-year-old “Cool and Warm” campaign and unveiling a new “OK Seeing is Believing” message that will include a special emphasis on the north Texas and Dallas-Fort Worth market.
The new campaign, along with a new bureau logo incorporating the Skydance Bridge, was unveiled Monday on the 50th floor of Devon Energy Center as civic leaders were told it is time to begin looking forward as a city that is growing as a tourist destination.
Michael Carrier, president of the visitors bureau, said the logo has not changed in seven years.
“It’s amazing how much Oklahoma City has changed in that time,” Carrier said. “Oklahoma City has changed significantly in the last several years, and it’s time for us to change too.”
Seth Spillman, director of the bureau’s marketing and communications office, said the “Cool and Warm” campaign has run its course.
“The cool and warm campaign we’ve been running since 2008 was effective, but six years with any ad campaign is a long time,” Spillman said. “It was getting difficult to keep that fresh and new. We were getting limited by the structure of the ‘this and that.’ And that’s the opposite of what a campaign should do.”
The visitors bureau commissioned Ackerman McQueen to survey focus groups consisting of meeting planners, bus operators, travelers in Dallas who had visited the city, and others who had not.
“The findings were so conclusive with the focus groups that Ackerman McQueen advised we didn’t need to do more — that we could spend our money elsewhere,” Spillman said. “And the outcome with the focus groups was the same — if they had been here, they loved it.”
Those who have yet to visit Oklahoma City, however, either continued to have negative or outdated views, or no perception at all, Spillman said.
The common response by those who had visited Oklahoma City, Carrier said, was that they were “blown away” by what they saw.
“We are blown away a lot,” Carrier said. “Last week at the convention and visitors bureau meeting, the new school superintendent talked about how he was ‘blown away’ by what he found in OKC as a place to live and work.”
The reaction cheered tourism officials, but the phrase “blown away” was not seen as a campaign tag in a city that also has its share of tornadoes and the history associated with the 1995 bombing.
“It’s kind of hard to use ‘blown away’ as a tag line,” Carrier said.
The “See OKC” line will replace “Visit OKC” — a move Carrier hopes locals will embrace through the submission of photos that can be used in promotional efforts, and as a point of pride.
The new logo, meanwhile, reflects a forward vision that is inspired by an image already frequently showcase in national NBA Thunder broadcasts and news coverage — the Skydance pedestrian bridge that opened last year over the new Interstate 40 south of downtown.
Ashley Ball, creative director with Ackerman McQueen, was the first to suggest incorporating the ornate bridge after seeing it featured during a Thunder broadcast.
“It’s become a distinctive icon,” Ball said. “You see it on televised Thunder games. You see it at night. It’s a unique emblem; it’s a unique piece of art. Is there a way to capitalize on that?”
Carrier immediately liked the idea.
“We own it,” Carrier said. “There is no one else who can use it.”
A new weekend destination
Oklahoma City residents frequently tell the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau they see Dallas pitching itself as a destination with billboards and commercials and want to reciprocate. The bureau is preparing to do just that with a targeted social media and digital billboards.
Oklahoma City barely registered as a tourist destination a quarter-century ago, but bureau officials say the improvements downtown and along the Oklahoma River have dramatically helped advance the city’s status as a weekend destination.
The U.S. Travel Association reports the impact of economic travel on Oklahoma County jumped from $1.8 billion in 2006 to $2.5 billion in 2012. Michael Carrier, president of the convention and visitors bureau, notes that 38.9 percent increase included the 2008-09 recession.
The city’s hotel-motel tax, meanwhile, jumped from $8.65 million in fiscal year 2006 to $13.1 million in fiscal year 2013 — a 53.5 percent increase.