How Las Vegas Is Helping the City Heal With Two Perfect Lines of Copy

R&R's Arnie DiGeorge on the agency's emotional new ads

Headshot of Tim Nudd

LAS VEGAS—The ads are all over town, from digital billboards at the airport to the famous marquee displays outside the major hotels and casinos.

Two lines of white copy on a black background:

We’ve been there for you during the good times.
Thank you for being there for us now.

Below that are the Las Vegas tourism logo and the hashtag #VegasStrong.

The message is everywhere, appearing on way more ad spaces than you would expect. Some displays have other ads rotating in, but many are unblinking—broadcasting just those words of thanks to the tourists here, and to those around the world who’ve offered support since Sunday’s horrific mass shooting on the south end of the Strip.

Every city in mourning repurposes its outdoor ad space this way. Think of the “United We Stand” ads in New York after 9/11, or #BostonStrong after the marathon bombing. Out-of-home plays a unique role at such moments, giving public voice to the pain—and also to the resilience that always goes hand in hand. It’s something the community craves without even necessarily knowing it.

Las Vegas knew after Sunday that it would need such messaging, and quickly, to help the city begin to heal. The task fell to R&R Partners, longtime agency of record for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority—best known for their long-running tourism ad campaign “What happens here stays here.”

The LVCVA would have no trouble getting the message out—the government agency partners with all the big properties in town to coordinate advertising. R&R’s job was to figure out what the ads should say.

By 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the campaign rolled out. It included the stark black-and-white ads with the two lines of copy, as well as a more ruminative video, narrated by Andre Agassi (born and bred in Vegas, and still a resident), about the city’s strength as well as the acts of heroism by its citizens.

On Wednesday, Adweek spoke with R&R executive creative director Arnie DiGeorge about the challenge of responding, the parallels to 9/11, the process of writing the copy, and how, in some sense, the new ads aren’t all that different from “What happens here stays here.”

Adweek: How quickly did your thoughts turn to, “Hey, we’re going to need some kind of communication to unite people here”?
Arnie DiGeorge: We’ve been through something like this before, when 9/11 happened, and when we had the really sad times because of the housing problems here and the downturn in the economy. So, we know when we need messaging. We knew it right away this time. It was just one of those things where we form a control room and we go at it. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster ride for everybody here. Usually we’re not as close to it as we are this time.

Obviously you guys know a thing or two about coming up with a great line. How did you arrive at these lines, and did you feel pressure to get them just right?
I hate to say this, but it was pretty easy. Most of the stuff we’ve been doing is based on what we’re hearing and what we’re experiencing. We’re trying to be as truthful and emotional as we can. One of the things we realized was the outpouring of support from everywhere. All we could think of was: These are all the people who visit us. These are the people that we’ve shown a good time to. They’ve seen us at our absolute best. And look what they gave us back. It was a really, really easy line to write. It was where a few of the writers were immediately headed.

So, not too many rewrites.
I won’t say we didn’t have rewrites. It was said a couple of different ways, and we tried to simplify it as much as we could. But it wasn’t as hard as it sometimes is.

"These are the people who've ... seen us at our absolute best. And look what they gave us back."
Arnie DiGeorge, R&R Partners

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.