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O.C. signs MGH, Rodney for 2 more years

Rodney the Lifeguard, the fictitious “spokesguard” for Ocean City, just ended his second season at the head of a campaign being credited with boosting summer tourism numbers.

Rodney the Lifeguard, the fictitious “spokesguard” for Ocean City, just ended his second season at the head of a campaign being credited with boosting summer tourism numbers.

Ocean City’s “Rodney the Lifeguard” will remain on duty for the next few years after the resort granted a two-year contract extension to the ad agency behind the campaign.

The fictitious “spokesguard” for the beach town just ended his second season at the head of a campaign being credited with boosting summer tourism numbers. The advertising campaign, launched in 2009, features, as the city’s “spokesguard,” a lifeguard character who rescues people from their mundane office meetings or frustrating traffic jams to take them to the beach.

The ad agency behind the campaign, Baltimore-based MGH Inc., was awarded a two-year contract extension with the Town of Ocean City this week, which means Rodney will be representing the oceanfront resort for another summer.

“Those ads have really resonated with people,” said Ocean City Councilwoman Mary Knight, who also heads the town’s tourism commission. “People like Rodney, and whenever they see him out somewhere, heading up a parade or something, they’re just almost giddy to meet him.”

Under the contract, the agency will also continue media buys, public relations, social media and interactive services for the town.

MGH has worked for the town since 2002 and has had its contract renewed annually since then. In 2009, the contract was put out for competitive bids, and MGH was selected again from nine competitors.

The town has increased its spending on tourism-focused ads since 2008, when the Ocean City Council approved a 0.5 percent room tax to pay for destination marketing, which went to increase the marketing budget. Tourism is the city’s largest source of revenue and received $4.5 million in this year’s budget.

About 4.1 million people visited the resort this past summer season, stretching from Memorial Day to Labor Day, according to a formula that estimates population size based on wastewater usage.

“Overall, we just had a great summer,” Knight said. “We’ve just had a really, really good year.”

Ocean City spokeswoman Donna Abbott said room tax revenue also indicates it was a busy summer season for town. With roughly 10,000 hotel rooms and close to 21,000 condominiums available for renting, Ocean City collected $3.36 million in room taxes in July, a 10 percent increase over last year. And, in August, $2.67 million in room taxes were collected, a 5 percent increase.

“Room tax revenue is really one of the best barometers for how busy we were,” Abbott said. “And, that’s where we would typically like to see those numbers.”

MGH President Andy Malis said having a contract through at least 2012 will give his company and town officials the flexibility to try new marketing strategies and possibly push the message into new geographic markets. This past summer season, the resort targeted the New York and New Jersey markets and reported seeing an increase in business from that area. Malis said officials have discussed expanding the town’s advertising to markets south of Maryland, like Virginia Beach, that have not been targeted in the past.

“Ocean City is a good value and it’s a family fun vacation,” Malis said. “That’s what we’re going to promote and that’s how we’re going to continue to position ourselves again this year.”