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Ad campaign puts a face on the 'long-time visitor'

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

The names David Appleton, Mark Szlatechka and Braxton Williams may never be well-known, but one of their faces should become a familiar sight beginning next month.

The three Charleston area actor/comedians are finalists to star in a new series of ads that will dub Georgetown County the Hammock Coast and attempt to attract visitors by asking them to stay away.

The ads will feature a “wacky interrupting guy” wearing a sandwich board that says “Please don’t come to Hammock Coast.” The character, which will be inserted into typical vacation shots of people enjoying the area’s scenery and activities, is supposed to represent a long-time visitor to Georgetown County.

The idea is to convey that the county is an undiscovered treasure, loved so much by those who live and vacation here that they don’t want to share it.

The county’s ad agency, Rawle Murdy Associates of Charleston, will cast the role of the sandwich board-toting tourist this week, but their pick won’t be revealed until May 13, when the county Tourism Management Commission will host a launch party to unveil the Hammock Coast campaign to locals.

The launch will immediately follow the commission’s May meeting, which begins at 3:30 p.m. at Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort.

The campaign has a greater impact visually than it does verbally, said Annette Fisher, executive director of the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce.

In general, locals have been underwhelmed by the Hammock Coast moniker and “don’t come” campaign after hearing and reading about it, so the commission wants to give them the opportunity to look at what Rawle Murdy has cooked up before it goes live May 17.

“If you don’t understand it or agree with it, at least come out and see it,” Fisher said.

Though Rawle Murdy, and not the commission, will pick the new face of Hammock Coast, members were asked for their input.

The commission was presented with casting images of the finalists last week.

“We’ve got three guys we really like and we think any of them would work,” said John Kautz, account director for Rawle Murdy. “We wanted him to look like somebody you would see vacationing at Hammock Coast, but he needs to be funny. He needs to contrast with the beautiful beach shot and the family.”

Katie McNeill Prechter, senior planner for the agency, said all three finalists have a background in improvisation and acting, and “can pull off the friendly-yet-goofy look we envision for the interrupting guy.”

Commission members had a week to look at the casting shots, as well as wardrobe choices, and were supposed to e-mail feedback to the agency by Wednesday.

There was no discussion about the finalists when the images were handed out April 8.

Once the role is cast, plans are to schedule a studio photo shoot, in which the actor will be photographed in front of a green screen. Those images can then be added into scenic location shots.

Plans are to have a photo shoot in Georgetown County in June or July. A generic beach scene will be used in the first ads, which will be in place before the location shoot.

At a meeting last week, commission members also discussed buying window stickers or some other small item featuring the Hammock Coast logo to be handed out at the launch party.

Helen Benso, who chairs the commission, voted against the move. She said the function of the moniker is to appeal to potential visitors outside the area, not locals — something Kautz told her in March when the commission voted on the name.

“If you have people that come here from away and nobody here calls it Hammock Coast or knows it’s Hammock Coast, the message doesn’t carry through,” Kautz argued.

Other commission members supported the idea of having a party favor for locals, but didn’t necessarily want a sticker. Commission member Sassy Henry said there are already plenty of stickers promoting the area on vehicles and storefronts.

Commission Member David McMillan pointed out that some of the favors would likely be left after the launch and could be stocked at the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center at the Hammock Shops.

“We’ve got a lot of stock riding on this campaign,” he said, arguing that something should be done to promote it locally.

The commission voted to allow Rawle Murdy to spend up to $5,000 on the launch, including advertising costs.

It will be left up to the agency to decide what kind of item will be given away.

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