Breck official apologizes if edgy ad offends
SUMMIT COUNTY – Breckenridge Ski Resort Chief Operating Officer Roger McCarthy offers his apologies to anyone offended by the “But the town will still be your bitch” ad campaign currently running in targeted snowboarding and freestyle skiing magazines.
“The last thing we want to do is offend people. If we have, I apologize,” McCarthy said Wednesday as he emerged from a daylong media whirlwind created by the edgy ads.
Still, McCarthy said response to the ads remains in the mind of the beholder, and it is the minds of teen-agers and twenty-somethings the ad is attempting to sway.
The full headline of the ad reads, “The hill may dominate you. But the town will still be your bitch.” Other language offers the details of how that works.
For the target group, the word doesn’t conjure up the pejorative it does for the older set, for whom the word bitch can be innocently used as a name for a female dog or derogatorily as a damnation for an ex-wife or errant female driver.
In polite company outside of dog shows, the word is not nice.
Conversely, in street lingo, a bitch can be a guy, or as the ad implies, something like the high-energy nightlife the young allegedly will find in Breckenridge.
McCarthy said the ad lives in the latter world.
“If you were offended, then the ad was not meant for your eyes,” McCarthy said.
Indeed, the ad was put into a narrow pipeline represented by niche magazines such as Freeze, Transworld Snowboarding, Stance, Transworld Skateboarding and Axis, all targeted at the vaunted Gen- generation that already supplies some of the most frequent snowriders while representing untapped potential.
Colorado Ski Country USA, the state’s ski resort trade association, has been harping on its members for the last several years to work on the Gen-ers to replace Baby Boomers – and to do it with vim and verve.
Breckenridge Ski Resort got the message.
It’s hard to say if the ad would have remained anonymous with the B-word in its headline. Word got out locally when resort officials showed campaign slicks Aug. 27 to Breckenridge elected officials. The Summit Daily reported on the campaign Saturday, Aug. 31, eliciting a string of critical letters to the editor. On Wednesday, the Denver Post ran the story on its front page, and Denver talk radio picked up on the subject as well.
“The column inches we have gotten out of this are unbelievable, but that is not what we set out to do,” McCarthy said. “We don’t get out of bed thinking about how to offend people.”
In marketing, free media coverage, even if it smacks of the negative, is a big-time bonus. In this case, it took the message to a mass audience, which was counter to the resort’s intent.
McCarthy called the target audience “a piece of the jigsaw puzzle” that builds into the end-of-year skier-day count.
“Now people think we are going after that market on an exclusionary basis, that we won’t welcome anybody else. That’s hardly true.”
He contends the people upset with the ad wouldn’t be so riled about a campaign in the Robb Report appropriately targeted at the “magazine for the luxury lifestyle” market.
At the same time, the Gen-er would balk at that message.
For McCarthy, the dichotomy is all about individual dreams.
“Everybody has a dream about what Breckenridge is. But my dream is different than somebody who is 22,” he said. “The unique thing about Breckenridge is it is a mosaic of individuals living their dreams.”
“Breckenridge has a fairly good-sized retirement community, but I wouldn’t call Breckenridge a retirement community,” McCarthy added. “But more and more retirees are living here with their dreams.”
For this segment of resort customers, the “bitch” ad is a nightmare, not a dream, judging by letters to the editor and by phone calls pouring into the resort’s executive offices. Still, McCarthy said the “real measure of any advertising campaign is not in the court of public approval but (in asking), Can the campaign move people’s feet?'”
He said Breckenridge tries a different marketing tactic every year and owns a record.
“Breckenridge has always done something provocative,” the COO said.
Would the resort still place the ad, knowing what it does now?
McCarthy called that question “academic.”
“We will see what it does. The die is cast, and we can’t back up at this point,” he said.
Phone numbers and special Web sites listed in the ads will allow the resort to track response.
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