The scene could be straight out of a soap opera as a temptress with long, dark hair looks longingly into the eyes of a tall man with chiseled features, wearing an Orioles cap.
But as they they strip away their winter clothes, more Baltimore attractions are revealed: the National Aquarium on a T-shirt, a Maryland crab on another. Lying nearby are shopping bags from the Baltimore Museum of Art and the ESPN Zone.
The seduction scene turns comical as each layer of clothes is removed to reveal another.
It's the charisma and chemistry of the two -- a successful New York City actor and actress -- that the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association is banking on to sell the region in a new television spot aimed at traditionally slow winter months.
"Most cities would never do this," admits Dan M. Lincoln, vice president of tourism and communications at the convention association. "It's safe to go out and show your city, show your skyline, your sights. You know you're going to get some semblance of results. This is not safe."
Perhaps not safe, but engaging.
The idea for the latest 30- and 60-second spots to sell the city is grounded in recent survey results from D. K. Shifflet & Associates Ltd. of McLean, Va., which showed that couples, rather than families, are more likely to visit Baltimore during the first quarter.
Throughout the year, families represent 37 percent of the region's overnight leisure visitors, and couples 26 percent, according to the Shifflet data. But during the first quarter, families represent 10.9 percent and couples 18.7 percent.
Guided by that research, the Campbell Group, the advertising agency devising the $400,000 marketing campaign for the convention association, decided that the city's marketing dollars should target couples.
Survey data also revealed that the distance travelers are willing to drive to visit Baltimore decreased significantly during winter months, causing the advertising agency to adjust the marketing radius to 150 miles.
"It's a much more difficult proposition to bundle the kids up, toss them in the car and stay in a hotel room where there really aren't as many family oriented, outdoor things to do," said Bryan Stark, account supervisor with the Campbell Group.
To appeal to couples, the convention association and local hotels have put together a variety of weekend get-away packages using romance as a theme.
The TV spot's stars were chosen from about 120 couples that the advertising agency watched "strip" to determine the perfect representatives for the city.
"Because we're not showing the city, because we're showing a couple in a hotel room in an engaging way, the talent and the director are very important," said Lincoln. "The idea is for people to nudge their partner at home and say, 'Hey, you've got to see this.' "
For the experienced actors, the Baltimore spot offered the chance for more fun than usual.
"It's totally different from anything I've ever seen or done before," said Claudia Rocafort, 29, the commercial's aggressive seductress who has appeared in "Spin City," "As the World Turns" and "One Life to Live."
"It's a little bit on the edge," she says of the advertisement.
Her co-star, 30-year-old Jason Kolotouros, who has appeared on "Trinity," "One Life to Live," "Law and Order" and in national Coca-Cola and Miller Lite commercials, views the spot as the perfect illustration of Americans following the lead of their European counterparts, taking increasing risks in advertising.
The commercial -- slated to air starting next week in nearby markets -- represents about $80,000 of the $400,000 marketing campaign and is expected to have a shelf life of two to three years.
Lincoln, who formerly worked in Cincinnati, has taken chances with advertising before with great success. While in Cincinnati, he orchestrated a Nickelodeon-style spot that aired during children's and adult programming.
The ad instructed children to call in for free posters, which typically found their way to bedroom walls where they reminded mom and dad about the vacation possibilities in Cincinnati.
The results: 67 percent of the people who called for information visited soon afterward, Lincoln said. "Our gauge of whether this spot works is whether the phone rings," Lincoln said.
Pub Date: 12/30/98