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Ocean City is planning its 2012 media blitz

OCEAN CITY — Ocean City officials will approach tourism in the coming year by using a combination of tried and new methods.

Rodney the Lifeguard will be back, for instance, and the town’s tourism department is introducing two new advertisement campaigns. One will thank visitors for coming and returning to the resort, and the other will try to add sports-related special events to the activity roster.

Unofficial talks to bring the Dew Tour back to the beach are ongoing, as well, according to Ocean City Tourism Director Deborah Turk, who gave a presentation at a Town Council work session last week on the department’s plans for the coming year.

Turk said the town is still benefiting from the buzz generated by a Dew Tour stop in July, and the department has used this as a facet in its mission to promote growth through athletic events. She showed the council a group of magazine advertisements that will circulate with the theme, “Sports are more fun in OCMD,” and revealed Big Shots Basketball, a prominent youth tournament organizer, is planning to hold a tournament in town during Memorial Day weekend. The organization may schedule another tournament to take place in the spring, as well.

Jeff Schneider, CEO and president of Big Shots Basketball, visited the resort recently for the first time, and Turk gave him a tour of town.

“He absolutely fell in love with Ocean City,” said Turk, adding the company is in the process of completing the paperwork to officially schedule its event.

Turk told the council she’s been in contact with Dew Tour organizers, and they say they “definitely” want to come back next summer, though no official action has been taken yet. NBC, which televised this summer’s contest, has rights to air the 2012 Summer Olympics, she said, so scheduling the event to coincide with available air time will be a “tight fit.”

During the meeting, Turk screened two new Rodney the Lifeguard commercials that will be airing in coming months. One points out some common inconveniences associated with air travel while passengers wait for a delayed flight to take off. Rodney shows up and convinces the group to bail on the flight and, instead, take a short drive to Ocean City.

In the other, Rodney is seen holding vacationers who testify the lifeguard had rescued them from various mundane tasks, like assembling furniture and unloading the dishwasher, by bringing them to the beach. The commercial ends with Rodney addressing the camera and thanking people for visiting Ocean City; he then directs them to, where they’ll eventually be able to find promotions and deals factored in as part of 2012’s “Summer of Thanks” campaign.

“I absolutely love them both, especially the airplane one,” council member Mary Knight said. “I think packing up the car and going helps begin your vacation a little bit better.”

“The ‘Summer of Thanks’ program is going to be intensive,” Turk said as she outlined the free offers and advertisements the tourism department is creating and distributing with the help of MGH, a Baltimore-based advertisement firm the town has contracted for years. The department plans to use print, on-air and Internet-based methods to get word out about the campaign’s offers.

Councilman Brent Ashley can claim paternity of the campaign idea. He suggested it in a meeting this summer, after he had gone solo on a number of promotional ideas to thank visitors for making the trip to town, like passing out rubber wristbands and handing out envelopes of cash for fuel money. He would even approach random people on the boardwalk and thank them for their presence.

“I think [the campaign] they’ve designed is going to be a definite winner,” said Ashley. “I think we forget we’re all here because the people come visit.”

Ashley has also been a critic of the Rodney commercials, and wasn’t in favor of bringing them back for 2012. He acknowledged in an interview that he’s “not the biggest supporter” of the Rodney campaign, but was pleased to see the commercials include the theme of thanking tourists.