Art, Design Replace Sex, Vice as Miami’s Key Selling Points

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What happens in Miami doesn’t have to stay in Miami. In fact, if all goes well, visitors should leave there with something to take home and put on the wall — or on the floor or in the closet. At least that’s the message of the city’s newest tourism campaign, which replaces bikini-clad lovelies lounging poolside at boutique hotels (not that there’s anything wrong with that) with the work of local artists and designers to extol the city as not only sizzling but also “a refined destination awash in culture.” In the above ad, created by agency Turkel and debuting this month in such publications as The New Yorker and Architectural Digest, a man dives into a sea of (digitally multiplied) benches created by local furniture designer Avner Zabari.

Word of the new campaign (catchphrase: “Miami: Express Yourself”) made the front page of yesterday’s Miami Herald, which titled the story “From Abs to Abstract.”

“We’ve created a more sophisticated image of Miami,” said Rolando Aedo, marketing director for the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, which commissioned the new campaign. “We’re shifting from style to more substance.”

But not everyone is sure that slightly surreal riffs on Art Basel, Design Miami, and the city’s new performing arts center will succeed in their goal of drawing more tourists. “You’re not bringing down the 20- and 30-year-olds with art,” said Alan Lieberman, an art collector and owner of the South Beach Group of hotels targeting young vacationers. “Art is nice, and it adds to our culture and it sells condos. But it doesn’t sell hotel rooms. Sex sells.” Of course, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Might we suggest a future campaign featuring the work of Marilyn Minter or Vanessa Beecroft, or perhaps some of the more staid photos of Thomas Ruff? Our mind reels at what fun Minter could have with a little sand.