Belize Tourist Board Breaks Bad

 Belize Tourist Board Breaks Bad

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for the Belize Tourism Board and Olson ad agency.

Last week, millions of Americans sat enthralled by one of the final episodes of Breaking Bad, the award-winning TV series about a chemistry teacher-turned-drug kingpin. As the episode unfolded, a potential slam became a golden opportunity for the country of Belize.

In the episode, drug lord Walter White is discussing with his consigliere ways to deal with someone who knows too much about White’s line of work. The lawyer asks White if he’s considered sending the individual in question “on a trip to Belize,” referring to a similar, previous problem in which the person, who was murdered, was said to have moved to the Central American nation. White retorts, “I’ll send you to Belize!” The phrase swiftly became one of the top five memes on the Internet – and an unexpected boon for Belize.

The Belize Tourist Board was on it like sand on a tourist’s toes. Their advertising agency, Olson, quickly crafted an ad that offered a free trip to show’s cast and creator, using clever inside references that delighted the show’s many fans. As ADWEEK noted, the country “took the reference in stride and is out to prove that a visit to Belize isn’t, in fact, a one-way trip to oblivion.”

The cute gimmick generated more headlines than Belize has probably received at any one time in history. It also represented some canny thinking by a small country that competes for its tourism dollars with larger and more easily reached neighbors like Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Peru. Instead of being offended by the connotation, they turned the reference into tourism gold.

THE PR VERDICT:  “A” (PR Perfect) for the Belize Tourism Board and ad agency Olson, for taking a potentially unflattering catchphrase and turning it into a golden PR opportunity.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Seize unorthodox ways to call attention to your business, especially when raising marketing dollars is a challenge. Belize could have taken a conservative view and balked at promoting itself in this case; the phrase is, after all, a euphemism for murder. Instead, savvy marketing minds saw a unique and cost-effective opportunity to introduce their country to a demographic likely to appreciate what it has to offer. The result? They’re likely to make a killing.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners and Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) TO John McAfee. The billionaire computer programmer played a monthlong game of “Catch me if you can” with authorities in Belize, who said they merely wanted to talk to McAfee about the death of his neighbor. McAfee then went on the run and into hiding – rather publicly, as he bragged to reporters about his disguises and blogged about his escapes. Authorities tried to portray McAfee as crazy; maybe crazy like a fox. Whether he’s delusional, addicted to attention, or he truly believes he’s in danger of being held for murder, McAffee is milking his “wanted man” adventure for all it’s worth. The public shakes its collective head…and keeps right on watching. We might be witnessing a myth in the making.

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO Anne Hathaway. So, what was the reaction to the release of the multimillion dollar film version of the hit play Les Miserables? Any chance of immediate reviews was over before Hathaway even climbed out of her limo at the Paris premiere. She opted to go commando under her designer gown, which afforded her far less coverage than the paparazzi gave. “We’ve seen a lot of you lately,” chortled Today Show host Matt Lauer during the actress’s morning show appearance. To her credit, Hathaway drew a parallel between the unfortunate incident and her prostitute character in Les Miz, but the clever soundbite was all but lost; alas, one revealing picture is worth a thousand well-planned words. The PR machine on this one was well and truly blindsided.

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO: Fiscal cliff “negotiators.” The ongoing eleventh-hour skirmish over federal tax increases and spending cuts is set for January 1, 2013. Americans are deeply weary of partisan gridlock in Washington, and perpetuating it continues to further tarnish the reputations of both political parties. With President Obama’s decisive win just six weeks old, Republicans might be well-advised to agree to tax hikes on the wealthy in exchange for a few key areas on which they can loudly claim victory with the majority of their constituents. This is a PR battle where being the hold-out is no longer the winning strategy. Since the election, the game has changed; the first side to make a decisive move  will give the country some much-needed peace (and quiet) this holiday season.