By the time Gov. Charlie Crist announced Monday that the state would receive $25 million from BP for a promotional campaign, the state had already committed about 10 percent of that amount for online and television ads intended to drive viewers to the Visit Florida website, www.visitflorida.com.
There, the tourism agency has established a special section called “Florida Live” where potential visitors can click on pictures of the state’s coastal attractions and get real-time updates on everything involving the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Will Seccombe, chief marketing officer for Visit Florida, and Joe Cronin, managing director of DDB Miami, the advertising agency that handles the state’s tourism account, said the ads will start with the “drive market” — cities from Charlotte, N.C., to Dallas — where tourists are likely to use their cars to get to the Sunshine State.
But national advertising also will target the “fly-in markets” of New York, Toronto, Chicago and Philadelphia.
All of it will drive viewers to the website run by Visit Florida, the state’s consortium of travel and attraction businesses. The message also is being spread at the International Pow Wow convention in Orlando, which draws about 5,000 U.S. and international travel agents, tour companies, travel writers and others.
“We’re showing real people, real Florida, right now,” Seccombe said.
He and Cronin said the advertising online and on cable TV won’t mention the oil spill, which potential visitors know about anyway. Instead, the spots will emphasize that no oil has hit Florida and that all attractions are open for business.
“Tar balls” reportedly have reached the Florida Keys, but it has not been confirmed that they came from the Deepwater Horizon spill. The Gulf of Mexico has natural oil seepage, and other pollution sources sometimes affect all beaches.
Cronin said that if oil does hit Florida, the advertising strategy will be updated to provide accurate information and encourage tourists to keep coming to the state.