"Broadcasters were showing images of devastation in Seaside Heights," laments Liza Cartmell, "and talking about Atlantic City."
"Storm photos and video are killing us," adds Jeff Guaracino. "So we'll use photos and video to show people we're still here."
Selling damaged goods
It's not like Cartmell and Guaracino had Cush jobs before Sandy. They staff the Atlantic City Alliance, a private, nonprofit marketing corporation launched last year with a seemingly impossible mission: Rebrand a fading gambling mecca even Miss America had abandoned.
This fall, the promotions pros debuted a $6 million "Do AC" campaign selling a more sumptuous experience.
Old Atlantic City: Grandma smoking away the day playing "Wheel of Fortune" slots. New Atlantic City: Spa treatments, lunch with a celebrity chef, power shopping, gourmet dinner, and, of course, dancing.
Then Sandy sent the image-makers scurrying.
They want you to forget the sorrow on CNN and trust the locals. A.C. isn't flooded. Tables are set. Hotels and stores dangle deals galore.
But . . . the island and its people are suffering the trickle-down of the superstorm. Clerks fleeing damaged homes can't pay the security deposit if managers slash hours in empty stores. The Trump casinos already furloughed workers. If there's no gaming action, there's no need for staff.
Back on the boardwalk
At the risk of sounding desperate, the marketers are blunt: The best way to help the needy in A.C. is to visit - with your wallet. Think of the pleas to see post 9/11 New York, only with saltwater taffy for dessert.
On Tuesday, Guaracino wrapped The Inquirer with a promo listing 223 shopping options by location. Also, should you be a fan, the Moscow Ballet, the Roots, Clay Aiken, and the Long Island Medium all will perform in coming days and weeks.
A new TV commercial assures skeptics that "it takes more than a hurricane to stop us from doing what we do." On Thursday, Atlantic City will for the first time present a balloon - a puffy present - in Philadelphia's Thanksgiving Parade.
Guaracino tells me the alliance is dropping $2.4 million between now and New Year's on the slick, quick ad blitz. The post-storm photos of the beach at dawn are sublime, but for my money, the most endearing plea comes via a kitschy YouTube video ( http://ph.ly/ACvideo) from old-school Atlantic City archetypes: The cast of Bally's "Legends in Concert."
Yes, those are Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson impersonators next to the Blues Brothers repurposing "Under the Boardwalk."
Back on the Boardwalk, it wasn't destroyed.
Back on the Boardwalk, it could still be enjoyed.
Back on the Boardwalk, people doing A.C.
Back on the Boardwalk, still a great place to be.
Contact Monica Yant Kinney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-854-4670. For more information, see ww.doatlanticcity.com.