By the year 2003, the Las Vegas brand had transcended casino gaming, and the city had become renowned as a world-class entertainment, dining and shopping destination. But tourism growth had plateaued. With no new resort properties or other major development activities in the pipeline, the city needed a fresh way to tap into the deeply emotional connections visitors felt toward the brand – one that resonated with a wide array of audience targets in key markets.
Brand research and analytics confirmed that what motivated people to choose Las Vegas over other locales was the opportunity to cut loose, have fun and do things they wouldn’t do back home. The overall mystique of Vegas was universal, but rooted in individual imagination and triggered by emotion. The heart of the new brand was adult freedom.
The campaign, centered around the now-iconic tagline, What happens here, stays here.®, taps into a fundamental truth about human behavior and aligns with the core of the Vegas brand. A branded landing page was created - www.whhsh.com.
The campaign began with a series of television and print ads, a new website and an intensive PR campaign. Television spots were produced along with supporting print and a redesigned website. Each ad was engineered to reach a different target audience based on age, demographics and various behaviors. PR coverage for the new effort was secured across the big media outlets such as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, NPR, Sports Illustrated and Advertising Age.
Although the campaign has passed its 15-year anniversary, we continue to keep it contemporary and relevant, with evolving disciplines and tactics. These included creating custom microsites that gave visitors the tools to change their identity and become their Vegas persona; changing wallscapes that revealed Vegas stories over time; using projection media at events like the Super Bowl; and securing numerous media partnerships with networks and shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live!
As one of the most recognized destination advertising campaigns of all time, What happens here, stays here.® has received global recognition, not only winning multiple awards, but serving as inspiration for everything from movies (What Happens In Vegas, The Hangover) to pop songs “What Happens Here” by Usher). The following list is only a brief sample.
Advertising Week 2011, “What Happens Here, Stays Here” Win Favorite Slogan Category in 2011
Earned a permanent position on Advertising Week’s Madison Avenue Walk of Fame when inducted in 2011 for winning the favorite slogan category.
Upon the launch of the initial campaign, “What Happens Here, Stays Here” was recognized by Brandweek Magazine with the 2004 Grand Marketer of the Year Award and a cover story in the industry’s leading magazine.
Cannes - Bronze Lion – “Chinchilli Day La Revolution” in 2010:
In 2010, Las Vegas was the only destination to win an award at the 57th annual Cannes Lion International Advertising Festival for the “Chinchilli Day” spot in the Travel, Transport & Tourism category.
Las Vegas PRSA Pinnacle Award for the ‘Return of WHHSH’ in 2018:
In January 2018, the Las Vegas team re-launched the latest “What Happens Here Stays Here” commercial, Time Traveler. As the first relaunch after 1 October, the team was very strategic to help with the city and nation’s healing process. The PR team won a Public Relations Society of America Pinnacle Award for the planning and execution of this campaign at such a critical time for Las Vegas.
The campaign continues to defy expectations by any standard. Hailed by The New York Times as “a stroke of genius” and referred to by Advertising Age as “a cultural phenomenon,” it has also driven quantifiable changes in awareness and visitation. Even to this day, media and visitors from around the world are still saying, “What Happens In Vegas, Stays In Vegas®”.