Written by PollackPRMktg on March 15, 2012.
Brad Burlingame is the President and CEO of the West Hollywood Marketing & Visitors Bureau. He is a board member of the Visit California Marketing Advisory Committee, LA Stage Alliance, Sunset Strip Business Association, The Avenues- Fashion, Art & Design District, and the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Brad is Chair of the Cal Travel PAC and is a Past Chair of the Western Association of Convention & Visitors Bureau and the California Travel Industry Association. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Diane and their two daughters.
Q. As one of the smallest cities in California, a total of 1.9 square miles, what are the special characteristics of West Hollywood that warrant its own Marketing and Visitors Bureau?
A. Approximately 1.2 million visitors come to West Hollywood annually, the economic impact to the city in spending is more than $750 million dollars. The bed tax collected from hotel guests is the city’s single largest revenue source. So it is imperative, in the incredibly competitive travel industry, to have a dynamic destination marketing program to sustain this positive economic impact.
Q. Your Bureau’s mission statement states that it promotes the city as a destination for both business and leisure travelers. Could you briefly describe some of the programs for each?
A. The WH Marketing Bureau has a diversified strategy to attract business and leisure travelers. Our business travelers are concentrated in the entertainment industries of music, film, and television. We engage with those industries in our key feeder markets of New York, London, and Australia to ensure when they come to California, they know West Hollywood is the best location to do business. For leisure travelers the bureau works collaboratively with community partners to highlight unique luxury shopping, renowned dining experiences, legendary nightlife on the Sunset Strip, a vibrant LGBT community, and incredible events such as the Sunset Strip Music Festival and the Halloween Costume Carnival.
Q. West Hollywood has been a magnet for the film industry, attracting Oscar parties, celebrity residents and the shooting of both — films and TV shows. Is the City of West Hollywood Film Division a part of the Bureau or is it a separate entity? Is there a specific outreach strategy/plan for continuing to attract that industry, and if so, could you briefly describe those promotional initiatives?
A. The City operates a Film Department which manages the permitting of productions and works with those companies to ensure a successful shoot in West Hollywood. The West Hollywood Marketing Bureau manages Film West Hollywood and promotes the city to producers and locations managers. The FilmWestHollywood website showcases the many businesses in the City which could be used for location shoots or production wrap parties. FilmWestHollywood also participates in industry tradeshows to market West Hollywood and hosts location managers for quarterly familiarization tours of the city. The City Film Department and FilmWestHollywood work collaboratively to attract film, television, music, and other commercial productions.
Q. The City is well-known for its active residents. To what, in particular, do you attribute that spirit evolving from the sleepy days of early 20′s when West Hollywood was first so named?
A.West Hollywood has always had a certain rebellious attitude. In the 1920′s, despite prohibition, gambling and drinking were “overlooked” by authorities. It is how the Sunset Strip got its name- the unincorporated strip of Sunset Boulevard between Hollywood and Beverly Hills that was not policed. Notorious Sunset Strip nightlife originated from those days and has evolved over the decades. West Hollywood has always been a city that welcomes everyone. When the City finally incorporated in November 1984, the gay community was a strong voice in determining what the newly created City would be. Today, that same active spirit is embraced by the leadership in the City.
The West Hollywood Marketing Bureau developed a brand manifesto that also perpetuates that spirit. “We’re free to be different. We walk and think to a different rhythm. We’re fearless. We never aspire to fit in. Our streets are the new roads to art, music, food, fashion, architecture and new thinking. Dreams become our business plans. Our style becomes the trends that influence and inspire. From the refined to the radical. From the elegant to the outrageous. We think change is a necessary ingredient for planning, and standing out is part of showing up. We celebrate individuality and champion the unexpected. We are a combination of all the things that make one interesting and hopefully better. We are progressive, creative, open and diverse.”
Q.And finally, traditionally, the “Village” area of New York City was the most famous for its Halloween party that weaved through it. But now, I believe that West Hollywood has wrested that position away from New York and become the largest Halloween Street Party in the world. Did this just “happen” or were some planning steps taken to reach this peak? Does your Bureau market the City as a special destination place around Halloween every year on a national scale?
A. Each year the City of West Hollywood produces the annual Halloween Costume Carnaval. Years ago, the WH Marketing Bureau was directed to enhance marketing efforts for the event. Media strategies and corporate partnerships contributed to successfully increasing the carnaval’s popularity. The event has grown to attract approximately 500,000 guests on October 31st and it is by far the largest celebration of Halloween in the world. Carnaval’s long term development plans continue to evolve but our primary goal remains the same – continuing to brand West Hollywood as “the destination” one thinks of when they think of Halloween.