Does anyone remember the State of New Mexico Alien’s “Best Place in the Universe” advertising campaign? It started in 2007. It was the right campaign at the right time, although not everyone agreed. You can still see the videos on youtube.
Secretary of Tourism, Mike Cerletti came to Las Cruces to speak to the Advertising Federation group about the campaign. I discovered then why he was loved and respected. He was smart, opinionated, articulate, and most important for a half hour talk during lunch, he was prepared. Mike died on January 2nd, 2012.
The hook idea of the campaign was to capitalize on the UFO buzz brining tourists to the state and, in particular, to the UFO conference in Roswell. Mike did not like the campaign, nor did he propose it to Governor Richardson. He preferred to promote our cultural tourism destinations because of their pristine beauty. We were beginning to promote Eco-Tourism in the state at the time. Mike thought the UFO campaign was a distraction and not in alignment with our overall image of becoming a leader in green energy, energy conservation and Eco-Tourism. Pristine landscapes, beautiful parks, skiing, fishing, hunting are still among New Mexico’s tourism strengths. Yet, keep in mind the context of the times. Richard Branson had also just announced he intended to operate the recently conceived spaceline company, Virgin Galactic from the recently named Spaceport America. Space was a unique niche.
Five years later, we have come a long way quickly. In 2007, there was no great credibility for the Space Tourism industry. In 2007, there was little belief New Mexico would become the leader in commercial space and there was certainly no statewide campaign focused on positioning New Mexico as a space technology leader. Who were we kidding?
That was became the point of the UFO campaign. The research firm who measured the impact of the two different campaign concepts discovered audiences remembered the “Best Place in the Universe” concept more than the Eco-tourism campaign. The Governor chose the aliens campaign, and our float in 2008 Rose Parade won the Grand Marshall’s Trophy for creative concept and design. The UFO themed float, “Passport to our World and Beyond”, was criticized, yet we had the last laugh. We knew we were kidding ourselves and the world laughed with us. Ever a good sport, Mike was escorted by two of the Alien creatures when he spoke at ISPCS in 2008.
Cerletti was an enthusiastic supporter of New Mexico’s four-time participation in the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, Calif., and defended the state’s decision to spend $160,000 to participate in the 2010 parade. He recently indicated the reason for his support of the state’s participation in the parade, “Our purpose in participating in this event, like all our advertising efforts, is to get noticed and achieve tangible results,” Cerletti said at the time.
I understand Governor Martinez’s decision not to participate in the parade this year. There are many ways to spend tax payer money, and she is committed to being a good steward of our money. She is considering the consolidation one of the most important components of our state’s public image, possibly joining the Departments of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. How do we assure we coordinate dollars spent promoting the culture, the heritage and beauty of our state? It is a tough question to answer.
We are celebrating our state’s Centennial right now. People who work together don’t always agree. Yet, we continue to look beyond single issue differences and collaborate to work toward bigger goals. The Centennial Parade told the story of our state as a living history lesson. The Amador Hotel Restoration is a great story in the making. This project, like Spaceport America, will take many years to yield the desired end result. Yet, the visionaries have started on the journey and are working to preserve our heritage on both projects.
Tourists who came to New Mexico in 1939 were treated to the first Hilton Hotel constructed by Conrad Hilton. Built with 160 rooms, it was tallest building in New Mexico and it had air conditioning. In 2005, the property was closed for a $30 million dollar renovation. It has re-opened and is now called the Hotel Andaluz. It is fabulous, and a great example of what can happen when legacy properties and visionaries come together. The legacy Mike left was his love for our all the state’s properties and his quest to share her gifts. He laughed a lot, enjoyed people and lived strong.