Marketing in 140 characters: Why nightclub advertising is changing

Jack Colton and friends at Rehab in the Hard Rock Hotel.

From July 14 through Aug. 2, Robin Leach relaxed under the Tuscan sun on his annual vacation and kept his eyes on what’s happening in Las Vegas from Italy. Meantime, a kindly crew of Las Vegas celebrities and VIPs agreed to write guest columns for Vegas DeLuxe.

By Jack Colton, guest columnist

I woke up one recent morning to 57 text messages, 94 Facebook postings and a slew of @JackColton tweets wishing me a Happy Birthday. Throughout the day, hundreds more of each trickled in, and, being the ever-courteous social networker that I am, I dutifully replied to all of them and personally invited each person to our event at King Ink at The Mirage.

On the way to the party, I passed several digital billboards on Interstate 15 that prominently displayed the event flier, even though it had only recently been designed. Once inside King Ink, the room was peppered with people who were glued to their cell phones texting friends who hadn’t yet arrived and telling others that they should stop by.

Five years ago, this event would’ve been promoted by weeks of phone calls and with an aggressive street team passing out printed fliers. Now the nightlife operator who most aggressively uses digital media, social networking and viral online content can quickly change hundreds or even thousands of people’s plans within 48 hours.

Leach Blog Photo

Nightlife guru Jack Colton.

The increasing reliance on social networking for marketing isn’t limited to the nightclub industry. Nearly every major company in existence will pester you to add them on Facebook and follow their Twitter, but the 21 to 35 Las Vegas nightlife demographic is inarguably the most tech savvy of the larger visiting tourist population, and everyone wants to party.

Celebrity factor

Las Vegas nightclubs have long used celebrities as a way to attract crowds and promote their venue’s image as a hotspot, but these days simply getting an A-lister to take the 30 seconds to type a 140-character tweet about visiting their nightclub can have more of an impact than 10 pricey billboards.

Mustafa Abdi, marketing director of Jet in The Mirage, explains, “When someone like Kim Kardashian tweets to her over 4 million followers that she is coming to your nightclub, the impact is huge both immediately and in the overall word-of-mouth that she was there.”

Leach Blog Photo

Kim Kardashian celebrates the launch of her new fragrance at Tao in The Venetian on Feb. 27, 2010.

And while most nightclubs don’t contractually require celebrities to promote their appearance via social media, the odds are that they will anyway. In one 24-hour period, @KimKardashian had exactly 15 status updates letting the world know that she was doing everything from working out and putting on makeup to celebrating her Grandma M.J.’s 76th birthday. Celebrities seem to be the most avid social networkers, and we can only assume that Grandma had some party crashers.

Print ads = branding

Print advertising is now seen largely as branding, and branding isn’t cheap. While most area nightlife marketing managers agree that digital advertising is considerably more effective at getting their message to a more targeted audience, the lion’s share of nightclub advertising budgets still go to traditional print advertising, which reaches everyone.

“A single full-page ad in a magazine like Rolling Stone can cost as much as $400,000, but the branding and prestige that comes from that is well worth it,” Abdi said.

Locally, nightclubs will pay as much as $3,500 per week for a full-page ad in weekly publications. While the effectiveness of branding compared to targeted online marketing is debatable, there seems to be a reputational rule of thumb: If everyone else is advertising, so will they.

Leach Blog Photo

Jack Colton, second from right, attends a lingerie party hosted by Sunset Tan's Jeff Bozz, third from left.

Considering that Las Vegas nightlife revenues have remained relatively insulated comparatively throughout the recession, even with added competition and Nevada now leading the country with an unemployment rate of 14.2 percent, it is very likely that calculated online marketing and a deliberately conscious social media drive have kept the younger tourist market interested in what Las Vegas nightlife has to offer and eager to come back.

As technology continues to evolve our way of communicating and planning our entertainment schedules, so, too, will nightclub marketers continue to adapt how they tell us the who, what, when and where of the Las Vegas party.

Strip headliner Greg London and Strip House executive chef John Schenk are our final guest columnists tomorrow.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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