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Wednesday, 28 September 2016 14:02

Jackson unveils new ad campaign, celebrates upward tourism trend

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After months of talking, planning and producing, Jackson County is set to unleash a new ad campaign and website showcasing the county’s best to a deep bench of potential visitors, and tourism director Nick Breedlove is enthusiastic about the results. 

“I think it’s going to really double our effort in terms of bringing more people here,” he said.

The concept is to sell Jackson County to people across the Southeast as “The Great Escape.” The campaign will frame Jackson as a magical mountain getaway, a place full of adventure and relaxation sufficient to last a day, a week or longer. 

The ad campaign features vibrant, action-packed photographs taken on-site at some of Jackson’s best-loved places, paired with enticing slogans such as “Welcome to the Tuck — she’s been waiting on you” or “Others have streams. We have a trail. Let’s go fishing.” There’s a video, too, featuring a sequence of clips including chirring mountain bike wheels, kids leaping for a swim and water pouring down a falls. 

“We believe that adventure is what you make of it,” the narrator says. “In Jackson County, the opportunities are endless. All you have to do is jump right in.”

“It’s always nice when the execution is as good as the anticipation of the concept itself, and I really feel like this gets it,” said Patrick Rhyne, creative director for the ad agency Rawle Murdy. “We feel like a lot of these pictures are a really good summary of what this county’s about.” 

 

Showing an authentic Jackson 

The pictures were taken over a three-day period in August, during which South Carolina-based Rawle Murdy — which the TDA engaged in July — traveled to produce a plethora of photographs and video footage for future advertising use. When the campaign goes live, Breedlove said, residents will recognize their favorite local places as well as their favorite local faces in the ads — rather than pay actors to come smile on camera, Breedlove rounded up 60 of his friends to model their county. 

“It’s authentic and it’s truly Jackson County at its best,” Breedlove said. “It uses some of the most scenic and stunning imagery that you’ve seen, and all of that is just here waiting for tourists to experience.”

The TDA board appeared to agree. 

“We are very impressed with your work, and we’re excited about the possibilities that are coming forward and moving forward as we go into the next year,” Chairman Robert Jumper told the Rawle Murdy representatives in attendance.  

The feeling in the room was a lot more positive than the one that had emanated last September, when the board’s previous ad firm Brandon Agency had come to give its marketing report. The TDA contracted with Brandon from January 2014 through June 30 of this year. 

“Our earlier creative spoke to assets that we have here, but it didn’t really do a good job at showcasing them,” Breedlove said. “We had used in some earlier creative campaigns some stock photography, which is not uncommon in this business because it’s really expensive to go out and conduct a photo shoot, but to push our marketing to the next level we needed something more.”

Shooting and post-production for the new photos and video cost the TDA $19,000, with the three 12-14 hour days of shooting involving two videographers, two photographers, four Rawle Murdy representatives, Breedlove and various combinations of the 60 models being on set at any given time. The shoot covered 12 different locations. 

According to Breedlove, the undertaking was a bargain. 

“We were able to keep that cost affordable and make the best use of funds by working with local talent and also shooting photography and video at the same time on each location,” he said. 

Hired models could have cost the TDA an additional $15,000 to $20,000, Breedlove said, so finding locals willing to volunteer their time saved a pretty penny. 

The resulting images will be used in all manner of marketing, public relations and social media efforts, benefiting Jackson County tourism for years to come, Breedlove said. Currently, advertising efforts are targeting Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Southwest Florida and Birmingham — those priorities are based on state tourism office statistics, TDA visitor research and website/social media analytics. Digital media buys will fill in the gaps to capture travelers who don’t necessarily fit into that geographic area. 

The TDA is also anticipating the launch of a new website — www.discoverjacksonnc.com — on Oct. 17. 

“We’re very excited about the new website,” Breedlove said. “It will be a portal of information not just for tourists but also for residents.”

Features will include detailed information on outdoor recreation, such as GPS directions to trailheads, and a comprehensive database for Jackson County’s accommodations. Accommodation owners will be able to log in to add or change information, including supplementary materials such as photos and videos, giving prospective guests a more complete picture of what’s available.

“It will be a fully featured portal where tourists can come in and see photos of the property and accommodation process without having to leave the website,” Breedlove said. 

 

Tourism thriving 

Even with the new advertising materials yet to launch, Jackson County’s tourism numbers are looking good. They’re up, and not just slightly — room tax collections have been up by double digits over the previous year. 

“Tourism has been up, not just in Jackson County but throughout the region, and we’re excited to see those trends continue,” Breedlove said. 

Between fiscal year 2014-15 and fiscal year 2015-16, Jackson’s room tax collections rose by 13.8 percent, with the trend continuing upwards through the beginning of the new fiscal year — July and August collections are sitting 11.5 percent higher than those for July and August of last year. For the one-month period ending Sept. 10, a report from Smith Travel Research showed hotel occupancy in Jackson County to be up 19 percent over the same period last year, and the TDA’s website saw record visitation during the month of August — at 9,619 visitors, it had more hits than any other month in the past two years. 

In addition to factors affecting the entire region, such as an improving economy and lower gas prices, Breedlove attributes the promising numbers to a more strategic advertising approach and better coordination within the Jackson TDA recently. Before Breedlove was hired in January, the TDA didn’t have a paid director to manage those interactions. 

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