Randy Snow

The creative director responsible for putting Las Vegas’ tagline on the pop-culture map—”What happens here, stays here”—is a Nevada native who has spent his entire career in the state. Snow, 49, grew up in Reno, attended the University of Nevada there and got his first copywriter job at a local shop. He joined R&R Partners in Las Vegas 11 years ago, helping to lure directors such as Errol Morris and Bryan Buckley with the shop’s tourism work. Snow, a Nascar “fanatic,” says the wave of “What happens here” parodies and jokes has been “lightning in a bottle for us.”

Q. “Vegas Stories” has received a lot of attention lately. What did you think of the Saturday Night Live skit’s implication that what “stays here” is pretty dubious behavior?

A. There has been more than a little discussion within the city of Las Vegas about this campaign and is this an appropriate side of ourselves we want to show to the world—and research tells us that it is. My ads aren’t that risqué compared to SNL and what Bill Maher is doing. But they’re doing it with our ad, not Pepsi’s or Ford’s or Chevrolet’s. I’m happy this is what they chose to rip off. This is lightning in a bottle for us. Most people go through their entire careers and never get that.

But the campaign definitely has caused some controversy in Vegas. Have you considered changing direction at all?

We haven’t. Our visitors and the people we talk to tell us they relate to it and like it. The convention numbers and the amount of money people are spending have never been higher. Business in Vegas is extremely good.

How did you feel about your ads getting banned from the Super Bowl last year?

In a strange way, I wasn’t surprised. The thing that frustrated me is that we were rejected not because of the content—we were rejected because of who we were. By not letting us spend $2 million with them, they gave us between $6-7 million in free publicity. Every time Chris Matthews or Tucker Carlson or CNBC ran a story about how Vegas couldn’t get into the Super Bowl, they also ran the commercial.

Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” triggered a storm about decency standards. Will it change how some of your racier executions, like the Luxor print ads, are received?

I don’t think the American public is as shocked by this stuff as we’re being led to believe. Whether it’s a casino or a beer talking to a certain audience, people understand it’s advertising, and they can either turn it off or turn away. We need to give people more credit for what they will watch. I don’t think we need the government to do that for them.

R&R has built its reputation on work for Las Vegas properties. Do potential clients see you as a one-trick pony?

It’s definitely an issue. Right now we’re probably seen as the “What happens here, stays here” guys. I’m fine with that. I’d rather be known for something than not be known. We do handle clients not involved in travel and tourism.

Besides the Vegas campaign, what work are you most proud of?

Methamphetamines are a huge problem in the desert Southwest. We did a spot [for Partnership for a Drug-Free America] based on a true story—our art director had a friend who was a meth user, and one manifestation is very obsessive-compulsive behavior, like plucking your eyebrows out one hair at a time. The ad was based on that. We also handle a very small account, the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Water is a huge issue here. It’s small, low-budget work that I’m very proud of, because it will make a difference where I live.

What’s the smartest business decision you’ve ever made?

Probably after three days of law school, deciding I didn’t want to be a lawyer. That decision did not go over well with Randy’s parents. I think they’re OK with it now.

Name one person you’re dying to work with.

I’d love to work with Rich Silverstein and Jeff Goodby for a while. For the longest time I wanted to work with Errol Morris, and I did, then Bryan Buckley, and lo and behold, he came to us and said he wanted to work on “What happens here, stays here.”

You’ve worked in Nevada your whole career. How has that affected you creatively?

I don’t think it’s been a detriment, just because I’m an ad nerd and I read it, watch it and pay attention to it and obsess about it anyway. I get the same TV stations and am exposed to everything everyone else is.

What did you do last weekend?

I played tennis on a USTA league team. I’ve gone to sectionals three times and nationals once. People don’t know this about me. And I watched a Nascar race; I’m a Nascar fanatic.

What was your most fun shoot?

We brought Errol Morris in to do some spots about Las Vegas. We didn’t think he’d ever want anything to do with us. We didn’t have scripts. It was a series of seven or eight spots in the “Freedom” campaign, with people we found on the street and in the casino. It was classic Errol Morris—they were 30-second documentaries.

What’s your biggest accomplishment?

I think a big accomplishment is being able to make a fairly decent living in this business in Nevada. And strangely enough, at this point, to be interviewed by Adweek, to have Saturday Night Live rip off a campaign I was a part of, to have The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal ask me what it’s like to have Billy Crystal say, “What happens at the Oscars, stays at the Oscars.” Who’d have thought that?