What Happens in Vegas… Can Usually be Fixed with a Little Bail Money and Some Medication.

I’m heading to Vegas next weekend! This is my third time and I’m finally going to stay at the Bellagio! In celebration of my trip, we’re going to look a little closer at the “What Happens in Here, Stays Here” campaign. The most effective campaign of 2003, and still going strong.

According to Steve Friess, in an article for the Boston Globe, the saying was not new but the connection to Vegas and the “constant utterances across the cultural landscape have advertising experts putting this rendition of the line in a league with Wendy’s “Where’s the beef” and Nike’s “Just do it”.

Within weeks of the Feb 2003 ad debut, the line had caught on like wildfire. March 28th, 2004, Billy Crystal wrapped up the Oscar program and closed with the line “Remember, what happens at the Oscars, stays at the Oscars”. You couldn’t turn on the TV without hearing it from a news anchor, late-night talk show host… and most recently, President Obama’s press secretary.

The line, when associated with Vegas has a larger meaning. It creates mystique and makes people beleive anything can happen. Before this line took hold, Vegas had been trying to sell itself as a family-friendly destination. They opened Disneyesque hotels like MGM and Excalibur. Needless to say, this failed miserably. They were losing revenues quickly and needed to do something to get back the tourists.

Enter agency R&R Partners and a 26-year old copywriter, Jeff Candido. When asked to come up with a solution to the lack of visitors, Candido and his team from R&R sat down to brainstorm. The line, “what happens here, stays here” was scribbled onto a napkin, but not acted on immediately. Some in the agency were a little skeptical of the idea at first, feeling it might be a little TOO provocative. But they took a chance and what resulted will go down in the history books as one of the most successful campaigns.

This saying aligns perfectly with the brand of Sin City – but funny enough, it’s not the most truthful tagline. Everyone I know who goes, usually comes back eager to share their stories, especially the naughty ones.

And now a few of my personal favorite Vegas commercials.


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