Las Vegas’ Ad Agency Explains Why ‘What Happens Here, Stays Here’ Isn’t Going Anywhere

#MeToo and Wynn allegations won't stop classic slogan

The tagline debuted in 2003. Visit Las Vegas

Is now the time for Las Vegas to come up with a new tagline?

recent story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal questioned whether R&R Partners’ long-running “What happens here, stays here” tagline for the city’s Convention and Visitors Authority’s faces a “cloudy future” in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against casino owner Steve Wynn.

R&R Partners CEO Billy Vassiliadis, however, insists that is not the case.

He told Adweek that, while R&R Partners temporarily pulled the tagline in the wake of the Oct. 1, 2017 shooting in the Las Vegas strip, the agency brought it back at the start of the year due to consumer demand. And it’s not going anywhere.

“Over the 15 years it has existed … there have been times when it has been more or less appropriate,” Vassiliadis said. He explained that “the messaging needed to be different” following the October tragedy, adding that there were also times during the recession when the agency shied away from the tagline in favor of a message emphasizing value.

Such decisions, Vassiliadis said, are “always dictated by a constant dialogue with our customers.”

“The need for a grieving period should not have been and could not have been interrupted” by the “very fun-loving … light-hearted entertaining” message of the long-running “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” he added.

It was consumer feedback that then sparked the return of the tagline last month as a “reaction to our visitors saying …’ I want my Vegas back.’ They felt that the appropriate mourning period had passed.”

Vassiliadis doesn’t agree with those suggesting negative connotations to the tagline in light of sexual harassment allegations against Wynn or an implication that Vegas’ culture facilitates or reinforces the silencing of victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault could overshadow the brand’s message. In fact, he argues that the tagline itself isn’t intended to have specifically sexual implications.

“I think much has been assumed or inferred that ‘What Happens Here, Stays Here’ is sexual in nature and it’s not,” he said. “The message is one of empowerment, not disempowerment. It’s one of choice.”

“If you look at the executions of our advertising over the 15 years,” he claims, “there are as many women making the decision of what they’re experience is going to be [as men] … There has not been anything where we objectify or use women as a man’s tool. The essence of this brand is adult freedom and empowerment.”

“I would say ‘What Happens Here, Stays Here’ in many ways is not at all contrary to the #MeToo movement,” he added. “It’s sure not intended to be. People perceive it the way they want to, in what they want their experience to be.”

Last month’s ad that brought back the tagline featured a time travel theme. A “Daydreaming of Vegas” spot from September focused on a woman’s reluctance to talk about her Vegas trip betrayed by a visible thought bubble, which she pops before things get too revealing.

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.