Road Less Travelled: Tourism Campaign Charts an Unconventional Path | Business Observer

Let’s say you’ve been tasked with developing tourism in what is already one of the county’s hottest post-pandemic destinations. How do you market it in a way that has never been done before? How to surprise potential visitors with information they don’t already know?

That was the brief given to Clearwater-based FKQ, one of the area’s most venerable marketing and advertising agencies, by longtime client Visit Tampa Bay, the destination marketing organization for Tampa and the Hillsborough County.

“Because we’ve had so much success, year after year, with the client, they’ve given us the power to go out and raise the bar,” says Dana Cohen, Group Creative Director of FKQ. “It’s a big problem to have, but how do you fight each year? We’re really focused on awareness as well as revenue, because we’re not so tied to Florida anymore, and this new campaign is very much about Tampa Bay.

One of the images from FKQ’s new campaign for Visit Tampa Bay, targeting business travelers and event planners. (Courtesy picture)

This last point is key and refers to one of the most intriguing findings from the FKQ 2021 team with Downs & St. Germain Research, a Tallahassee-based tourism market research firm. Because five years, as well as a global pandemic, had passed since 2016 when FKQ landed the Visit Tampa Bay account, the company wanted to better understand how well Tampa Bay’s brand and location is reaching its audiences. targets.

“We recognized that consumer behavior had changed, consumer sentiment had changed, but overall awareness had increased,” said Elisa DeBernardo, senior account manager at FKQ. “It was time to recheck perceptions and attitudes about Tampa Bay with our travelers.”

The Downs & St. Germain Research quantitative study surveyed people who had and had not visited Tampa Bay. He revealed that 43% of respondents think the Tampa Bay brand is strong enough to stand on its own, with the exception of Florida, and although slightly more – 49% – think Tampa Bay should still relying on the elements of the Florida brand, the difference is almost negligible and signaled to FKQ that it was time to take risks.

Fortunately, the client agreed.

“There are a lot of clients we’ve worked with who don’t want to be first because it involves taking a risk, but Visit Tampa Bay is willing to take that risk,” DeBernardo says. “And they’ve seen a lot of rewards from it.”


As FKQ staff members rolled out Visit Tampa Bay’s new campaign, dubbed “The Tampa Bay Effect,” they had to be financially disciplined. The campaign budget is $5 million, a far cry from the resources available to agencies working with deep-pocketed Visit St. Pete/Clearwater across the bay. They also had to deal with constraints imposed by the vagaries of local government, as DeBernardo explains.

“They have a lot more money,” she says, “and they can spend their budget at the market. We can not. We cannot target residents of Tampa and Hillsborough County; we can only market outside, while they have more leeway to spend money. »

Cohen adds, “That’s why you won’t see Visit Tampa Bay ads at Tampa International Airport, but Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, they can buy those big splashy elevator door ads.”

“Because we’ve had so much success, year after year, with the client, they’ve given us the power to go out and raise the bar. It’s a big problem to have, but how do you fight each year? FKQ Group Creative Director Dana Cohen says.

To stretch every dollar as much as possible, FKQ has focused its efforts on a handful of markets, including usual suspects such as Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., as well as fast-growing Sunbelt cities such as than Dallas. And with the pandemic forcing more people to travel by car instead of planes, the company has also devoted a lot of attention to what it calls “driver markets,” like Atlanta. He also heavily marketed the Visit Tampa Bay message throughout Florida.

“Floridians love vacationing in Florida,” says DeBernardo.

FKQ’s research revealed some travel patterns that may seem counter-intuitive at first glance. According to DeBernardo, it’s not uncommon for tourists to land at Orlando International Airport and travel to Tampa at some point during their stay. And as Tampa Bay’s national profile grows, even visitors from South Florida are getting in on the act.

“You’d be surprised how many people fly to the Tampa Bay market by plane, say, to Fort Lauderdale and then by car,” adds DeBernardo. “You would think you would never do that.”


Another finding found in the Downs & St. Germain Research study is somewhat paradoxical, revealing that nearly half, 49%, of visitors find Tampa Bay both active and relaxing. Other common descriptors included “adventurous”, “peaceful”, and “something for everyone”. FKQ staff also have these terms and ran with them as they developed slogans around which to build the new Visit Tampa Bay campaign.

“In almost every response, you could see people communicating that Tampa experience,” DeBernardo says, “that it was very relaxing and also very adventurous and very active.”

She adds, “Not to denigrate other vacations here in Florida, but a lot of them could be very ‘single note’, you know, ‘go out and you’re on a beach.’ But here in Tampa, you have such a variety of activities to enjoy.

FKQ’s new Visit Tampa Bay campaign capitalizes on the region’s perception of being both adventurous and relaxing. (Courtesy picture)

The area’s versatility and appeal to a wide variety of visitors has prompted FKQ to deviate from destination branding standards in terms of the expressions and terms used to establish Tampa Bay’s identity. Unlike a vague, catch-all tagline, like Orlando’s “Incredibly Real” tagline, FKQ emphasized the yin and yang dynamics at play in survey responses. And he came up with not one, but three slogans: “Relax Boldly”, “Delight Effortlessly” and “Meet Vibrantly”, the latter intended to appeal to business travelers and event planners. “Meet Brilliantly” is also used in some cases.

Without Downs & St. Germain Research’s deep dive, “I never would have found this kind of juxtaposition,” Cohen says. “Because at first glance it seems like it might be contradictory – how can it be relaxing and dynamic at the same time? But when you think about where our travelers are coming from, the congestion they all live in the days, the pace, the stress… even if you’re doing something adventurous here, maybe you’re paddleboarding, it’s still relaxing.

Other than the Visit Tampa Bay logo, the slogans do not contain location names, which might be seen as a risky move, but it fits with the visual approach of FKQ’s campaign.

“Our ads are always very image-driven,” Cohen says, “and the sense of immersion in the destination.”

She says much of travel and tourism marketing involves images of majestic shorelines, mountains, forests and other scenic vistas. FKQ wanted to help Visit Tampa Bay stand out from the crowd with full-frame, tightly cropped action shots.

“We wanted to be short, bold and catchy,” adds Cohen. “We wanted these short titles, with two words that represent yin and yang, so you have an active word with a more relaxed word.”

Short, catchy slogans have the added benefit of working well in digital media such as online banner ads you might see on websites and even streaming services.

“We’re on platforms like Hulu and contextual ads across the internet, you’ll see us on paid social media [media] and we’re even on gas station TV, looking for that driver who’s on the go,” says Gina Kline, group media director. “From a media perspective, it’s hard to come up with a new channel or a new way to use it, but what we love to work on are big canvases that can make Visit Tampa Bay a beautiful visual representation. “

In New York, for example, videos of Visit Tampa Bay played on screens in the iconic Hudson Yards plaza, and buses “wrapped” in Visit Tampa Bay advertisements rumbled through the streets and streets. avenues of the Big Apple.

“We’re looking for innovative ways to bring something new and different,” Kline says, “and it’s a big challenge for us to stand out from other DMOs and the messages you need to break through.”

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