For the first time, the three agencies that promote the city and its events have joined forces through a single, quirky advertising campaign that celebrates all things uniquely Baltimore.
The three agencies, the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, Downtown Partnership and the Baltimore Office of Promotion, pitched in to pay for the creation of the branding campaign, called "Baltibaloo." Each organization will use the campaign in ways tailored for its constituents.
"We were looking for something new and different," said Dan M. Lincoln, vice president of tourism and communications for BACVA. "How do we run an ad and start to create a long-term image or impression or brand for the city?"
The cost of the campaign is estimated at $75,000 to $100,000 -- a cost substantially underwritten by its creators, the Campbell Group, a Baltimore advertising and public relations firm.
BACVA will be the first to launch an extensive campaign using the new theme and expects to spend at least $700,000 by April to tout the range of entertainment available in the city's many neighborhoods, from medieval art to screen paintings, from fine dining to crab feasts.
"Baltimore's Inner Harbor has long been the main attraction for visitors, but there are many lesser-known areas of the city that deserve recognition for their unique appeal," said Carroll R. Armstrong, president and CEO of BACVA. "The contrasts highlighted in the Baltibaloo campaign give visitors a reason to stay longer or come back again."
Some of the contrasts will be expressed through taglines like the one that Downtown Partnership will use to encourage people to live, work and play downtown: "Where pinstripes and pajamas meet."
"I'm sure people are going to say, 'Oh my gosh, you're selling the 'Hons' and the yard art, how embarrassing,' " Lincoln said. "But these are the things that make us unique. That's what the out-of-towners like about Baltimore -- it's unique and different."
The campaign is also supposed to raise the consciousness of locals by telling them more about their surrounding neighborhoods, Lincoln said.
Ideally, its creators would like to keep the campaign around for at least several years, he said.
"Where this will indeed take off is if it's used by hotels, restaurants and attractions, if it's embraced by the community itself," Lincoln said.
BACVA's Baltibaloo campaign targets adults between the ages of 25 and 54 with household incomes of more than $60,000. Fall advertising begins this month.
Last winter's romantic television campaign, which featured a comical seduction scene, increased visitor inquiries by 44 percent, to 31,607, according to BACVA. Follow-up research showed that 61 percent of those inquiries converted to actual visits during the winter months -- a 19 percent increase over the previous year.
Those visitors who said they came to Baltimore after seeing the city's ad reported spending $14.4 million, Lincoln said. The cost of last year's fall and winter campaigns combined was $350,000.
Like last year's edgy, seduction-scene campaign, Baltibaloo is unusual, Lincoln says.
"It makes you a little nervous," he said. "Most cities throw up a picture of their skyline and say, 'We hope you come.' No one else in the country is selling their city this way. But I guarantee that for the $500,000 to $700,000 we're spending, we'll make millions. The question is how many millions."