Seeking attention from, for Colorado

6 advertising firms vying for $19 million account to bring tourists to state. Among the national and local agencies considered by the tourism office is the one that hit the jackpot with "Only in Vegas."
What happens in Colorado stays in Colorado?

R&R Partners, the Las Vegas agency responsible for the successful "Only in Vegas" campaign, is one of six finalists vying for the $19 million Colorado Tourism Office advertising account.

That slogan's approach has already been taken, but R&R wants to bring its bold approach to tourism marketing to Colorado.

"One thing we've seen in our research is that the breadth of tourism offerings in Colorado is not recognized nationally," said R&R chief executive Billy Vassiliadis. "Everybody knows the skiing and the natural beauty; a lot of the historical culture and nonsnow skiing (attractions) are barely known."

Local finalists include Karsh + Hagan, Pure Brand Communications and Praco, the firm that has held the account since 2000. Last year, the state's tourism marketing budget was $5.5 million.

MMG Worldwide of Kansas City, Mo., and a division of Ogilvy Worldwide are also contenders.

Colorado's tourism office is flush with money, thanks to a roughly $14 million boost to its annual marketing and advertising budget. The additional funding was approved by the legislature in the spring and became available July 1. The office was required to put its account up for public bid.

The six agencies will give their presentations this month; a final decision is expected by the end of September.

"It is certainly one of those marquee accounts that everybody wants," Pure co-founder Gregg Bergan said. "The tourism office appears to be approaching this with an open mind. I think they'll get some good ideas from this group."

R&R has a small satellite office in Denver that works with several local companies, including Quiznos, and is considering expanding it.

R&R has partnered with Phase Line Strategies, a Highlands Ranch consulting firm, to help fine-tune its message.

"We don't want to be seen as the out-of-state agency who comes in and tells Colorado what to do," said Vassiliadis. "We've got an understanding of the local issues, the sensitivities."

The successful Las Vegas campaign, launched in early 2003, won Brandweek's prestigious "Grand Marketer of the Year" award.

Colorado welcomed 25.9 million overnight travelers last year, up 1 percent over 2004, according to Longwoods International.

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