From Castlebar to Ceasar's: Meet the Irishwoman who sells Sin City...
Caroline Coyle is VP of brand strategy for the Last Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. We tapped her for tips on "the most exciting three days you can have on any stopover, anywhere in the world..."
Born in Castlebar, raised in Dublin and today charged with marketing Sin City to leisure tourists all over the world, Caroline Coyle knows a thing or two about social media... and The Strip.
What exactly is it that you do, Caroline?
Day to day, I oversee all of the marketing for the world’s most exciting destination... Under brand strategy, we have traditional advertising and PR like the ‘What happens here, stays here’ campaign and a new summer campaign called ‘Vegas Season’. But it’s also about digital, social, research, sports marketing and sponsorship. Our next iteration is to marry PR and social. That's the next big step.
Thousands of Irish tourists travel to Las Vegas every year. It’s a long stretch with no direct flights, so what keeps them coming?
It is the most exciting three days you can have on any stopover, anywhere in the world. It really is. It is genuinely fun. You can dine in the best restaurants, go to the hottest clubs, see Celine Dion one night and Cirque de Soleil another.
Plus, the exchange rate is amazing!
You haven’t mentioned casinos or gambling. What gives?
Well gambling is a given. The city has been diversifying in recent years, however, and that’s why it has stayed at the top of its game... on social, we don’t mention gambling because it's an Over-21 activity. It’s all about the lifestyle, the frame of mind. When you come to Vegas, anything is possible.
Speaking of which... does what happens in Vegas really stay in Vegas?
We never tell the customer what their Vegas moment is... that's up to them. And they come at it in spades… there can be a tension between that and sharing on social media, of course. That’s why we ran a campaign called ‘Know the Code’ a little while ago. It was about sharing the fun, but being tactful at the same time. It was the Prince Harry incident that brought that on.
So should we share, or keep things secret?
We encourage everyone to share out, but you can have your own moment and keep it your own too, you know! One thing we did this Presidents' Day was set up a booth at the airport, with President George Washington giving out presidential pardons for any indiscretions people may have had in Vegas... Just a little fun! We gave out certificates, and had Secret Service guys standing there in black suits and sunglasses. People loved it. It got a great reaction socially.
Just how big is Vegas on social media?
Our engagement is twice the average on social media, just because it’s eye-candy. I hate using that term, but that’s what it is. They love seeing the Bellagio’s fountains, the Eifel Tower, old Vegas or whatever it may be. That’s not just engagement from tourists on the ground. It’s all over.
How did you end up in Sin City?
I was born in Castlebar, Co. Mayo – a far cry from Las Vegas, as my Dad keeps reminding me! He’s a doctor in Philadelphia. He’s 86 and still sees patients, he’s a great town doctor. But I grew up in Dublin, went to school in Mount Anville and then I worked there in advertising for four years.
By then, I just wanted to see if I could make it in America. It took me two years to have the guts to get up and go, but I did it. I had a place to stay with my Dad, I got a job doing PR with the Sheraton Valley Forge Hotel & Convention centre and, after cutting my teeth on traditional PR and advertising, I went to Ceasars Atlantic City as advertising and PR director from 1989 to 1994.
While I was there I met this guy who was the race and sports book director at Caesar’s Palace. He got transferred to Atlantic City… that’s where I fell in love with my bookie... when my husband's family realised he was going to marry an Irish girl, there were brownie points galore!
- Since then, Coyle has worked on the launch of New York-New York and as executive director of advertising with MGM Resorts, before joining the LVCVA in 2013. She also has a certificate from Ballymaloe cookery school – Ed.
I absolutely love what I'm doing. Pinch me!
Anything new and exciting you're working on?
We’ve just started geovegas.lasvegas.com, a website that allows you to look at Vegas from the inside, using 360-degree views from Google Maps Street View. There’s no other destination doing this kind of stuff. We launched it last week with a homepage takeover of Youtube for 24 hours in the US, UK and Canada, and we got 67 million impressions.
One final tip, something we won't find in the brochures?
There’s an amazing Thai restaurant right off the Strip at Sahara. It’s called Lotus of Siam, and they have one of the best Riesling wine lists in all of Vegas. It’s in a little strip mall called Commercial Centre.
When you pull in you go: 'Oh there has to be a mistake here', but there is phenomenal Thai food. The best thing is to go in and have them order for you. Just say ‘Bring out the food.’ You can’t go wrong… and you won’t be disappointed.
Sunway (www.sunway.ie), Tour America (www.touramerica.tv) and American Holidays (www.americanholidays.ie), among others, offer package deals from Ireland to Las Vegas. There are currently no direct flights.