Thanks for visiting, Chicago

Entering the expensive Chicago advertising market was risky, but the Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau (HCCVB), decided it was a risk worth taking if it wanted to reach a broader audience. The risk paid off big dividends in 2013.

Advertising alone spurred a 138% growth in influenced trips to Hamilton County. The difference: Chicagoland and a refreshed ad campaign.

HCCVB added the Chicago market in 2012, using cable TV spots in targeted zip codes. In 2013, the bureau wanted to expand its reach, so it used an online campaign and print ads in Chicago Magazine. Combined, the ads reached approximately 3.4 million more households in Chicago than the previous year. That strategy attracted a record number of visitors who said they were influenced by the advertising. In addition to Chicago, HCCVB used print, radio, TV and online ads in Fort Wayne, Champaign and Louisville, which targeted nearly 4.8 million households. The findings are part of the 2013 HCCVB Ad Effectiveness survey by Strategic Marketing & Research Insights (SMARI), Carmel.

“The ultimate measure of advertising is whether it causes people to take action,” said HCCVB Deputy Director Karen Radcliff. “The 2013 results show, we’ve made a big impact. In fact we had the best return rate we’ve seen, with $158 returned for every $1 invested in advertising. Plus, with a smarter digital media buy, costs were kept at a manageable .65 per targeted household.”

While adding the Chicago market paid off, so did updated print, TV and radio ads and added online advertising. Louisville has been targeted since 2008, and there was concern the market was saturated. In fact, the reverse happened. Incremental travel (those influenced solely by advertising) from Louisville rebounded from a steady decline and gained 13% over two years.

“Research confirms that we must continue to understand our consumers, and show them through our ads that Hamilton County is fun, sophisticated and has many things to see and do,” Radcliff said.

HCCVB’s 2014 goal is to build on that momentum by incorporating its new logo and messaging with the images and themes  that were so successful in 2013 and watch to see if continuity can be maintained in the first year of a brand shift.

The SMARI study also found the ads connected with what visitors like to do when traveling. Top activities were: dining, shopping, visiting friends or relatives, attend a local festival or event or a large sporting event.

Tourism works for Hamilton County economy

When someone asks why a local resident should care about tourism, the simplest answer is “888.” Without Hamilton County’s tourism industry, every household in the county would have to pay $888 a year more in taxes. Research completed in 2013 for the previous year concluded that tourism’s annual economic county impact is $611 million. Hamilton County ranks No. 3 in the state for total visitor spending, and No. 2 in the state in its comparative set for growth. All the numbers add up to a simple fact: Tourism is good for Hamilton County’s economy. That’s why the Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau (HCCVB) continues to market local attractions online, on TV and radio, and in print; invest in attractions, collaborate with local communities and other organizations and look for innovative ways to continue to grow. 

“Settling for status quo is not an option if you want to stay relevant and attract visitors,” said Brenda Myers, HCCVB executive director.

“We continue to look for new ways to reach prospective visitors and also new products that will make Hamilton County an even more popular tourism destination,” said Karen Radcliff, HCCVB deputy director.

In fact, investing in a smart tourism program is also relevant to residents. Approximately 11% of all jobs in Hamilton County are supported by tourism making it the 3rd largest employment industry in the county. Revenue collected is sufficient to support 7,503 public school students.