Email from a reader:
Have you seen the commercial asking people to come visit Houston? Why would they run that commercial on a local Houston station? Uh, we already live here.
Excellent question. Yes, I have seen the spot. It begins with a generic, impossibly happy Houston family, then the usual run of Houston celebrities, and then, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner slams it home with: “Houston is a city that inspires. Visit Houston for yourself and find out where that inspiration leads you.”
So why would that commercial run here? Visit Houston? Let me open my front door. Okay, I’m visiting Houston.
Let’s get to the bottom of this. The commercial is called “Urban Rhythm,” written and produced by Holly Clapham Rosenow, chief marketing officer for Houston First, our city’s in-house publicity engine. She came up with the idea, and wrote most of the script while exercising on an elliptical machine in March. The spot was shot over four days by Zen Film, an Emmy-winning Houston production company. The budget was $40,000 for shooting, editing, catering (kidding), the whole thing.
The stars are big and bright
Local celebs appearing in the commercial: Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt, Rockets scoring champ James Harden, Astros basehit machine Jose Altuve, and singers Lyle Lovett and Kam Franklin of The Suffers. They all volunteered their time (at different times).
“It was difficult to get these people, their schedules are very busy. J.J. was the last one, he just swooped in here like Superman,” Rosenow says.
Everybody stuck to the script, except Mayor Turner who winged his clincher a little.
“Where big dreams come true!” — Altuve
“It’s a city that makes you groove!” — Franklin
“That’s the heartbeat.” — Harden
“That’s the rhythm.” — Lovett
“H-Town!” — Watt
They’re so giddy to be in Houston, you half expect to see men in white lab coats chasing them with butterfly nets.
Hey Houstonians, visit ... Houston?
At first, I also thought it was dumb to air a spot encouraging Houstonians to visit Houston. But Rosenow explains her brainstorm — and it makes sense. More and more people are passing on long, expensive vacations (have you been to Disney World recently?) in favor of daycations and staycations. She said that people who live in The Woodlands often come to Houston for the weekend and stay in downtown or Galleria-area hotels.
And the other way around. I have friends who go to concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, and spend the night there in a hotel. Of course, alcohol is involved in that decision — a smart, safe decision.
Sometimes, many times, people never visit their hometown attractions. I know New Yorkers who’ve never been to the Statue of Liberty. I’ve never been to Rothko Chapel in Houston. Never been to Space Center Houston, which happens to be the No. 1 tourist attraction in Houston, according to CityPass. Same for the Downtown Aquarium, No. 2 on the list.
The perfect day trip
“We run the spot in local markets to remind Houstonians to explore their own city. People within a 300-mile radius represent our largest visitor market. It’s important to remind Houstonians to be ambassadors for their city, too. Houstonians should advocate for their city as a leisure destination,” Rosenow says.
More than 21 million people visited Houston last year — 18 million were from the U.S. And a large chunk of that was from a day’s drive away.
In Texas, a “local market” is pretty big. The “Urban Rhythm” commercial runs in 20 counties. If Harris County alone — with 4.5 million people — were to bolt Texas (not a bad idea), it would be the 26th-most-populous state in America.
What do you think of the "Urban Rhythm" campaign? Let Ken know in the comments or on Twitter.