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Panel hopes to sell locals on Hammock Coast

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

A new advertising campaign that will brand Georgetown County as the Hammock Coast will be unveiled today in Litchfield.

The campaign is scheduled to go live Monday, but the county’s Tourism Management Commission wanted locals to have an opportunity to see it first.

The ads target tourists, but it’s important that those who live in Georgetown County identify with and embrace it, too, commission members said.

“They need to use it, so to speak,” said commission member Sassy Henry.

If locals don’t get on board with the Hammock Coast brand, or aren’t familiar with it, the message won’t carry through, John Kautz, account director for the county’s ad agency, Rawle Murdy Associates of Charleston, warned the commission last month.

The new campaign will attempt to attract visitors to Georgetown County by asking them to stay away, with ads featuring a goofy, tackily-dressed tourist carrying a sandwich board that reads “Please don’t come to Hammock Coast.” Braxton Williams, a Charleston actor, won the role of the tourist.

Ads from the campaign will be on display for the public from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort’s Tara Theater. Window stickers promoting Hammock Coast will be handed out at the event in an effort to get locals to buy into the concept and help advance it.

The event will also offer residents an opportunity to talk with state and local tourism officials about the campaign and how it could work for the county. Commission members will be on hand, along with Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce officials and Beverly Shelley, marketing director for South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

The state also recently launched a new tourism marketing campaign, and Shelley will talk about how that will affect tourism in Georgetown County and how the Hammock Coast campaign can play into the state’s overall plan, said Sally Hogan, the Chamber’s tourism coordinator.

Hogan said the launch is a big deal, and after people who attend the meeting hear what Shelley has to say, she believes they’ll be motivated to support it.

The event will also pitch co-op marketing opportunities, she said.

The tourist character will be inserted into traditional destination advertising photos, interrupting as people enjoy the beach, golf courses and other county attractions.

The character is supposed to represent a long-time visitor to Georgetown County, the idea being 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.

Williams, 33, did a studio photo shoot for the campaign last month and said he had a lot of fun with the role.

“They just stood me up against a white screen and told me to act goofy,” Williams said.

It came easily for him, thanks to his background in improvisational comedy. He said he’s pretty much always cast as “the goofball or the bad guy.”

He described the character as “kind of like Rodney Dangerfield from ‘Caddyshack.’ ”

Folks might recognize Williams from parts he’s had in other ads, including commercials for Subway, NASCAR, the S.C. Education Lottery and golf tourism in Myrtle Beach.

He’s also had roles in several films, including a horror movie called “Eight Graves” which was recently filmed on a plantation in Georgetown County.

When Williams was a child, his grandfather owned a hotel in Myrtle Beach, and when his family would go visit, they’d always stop at the Hammock Shops, so he’s familiar with the area his image will help promote.

“I hope I do it justice,” he said. “It’s a fun place, so I hope it will be a good fit.”

The staff at Rawle Murdy talked about “tweaking” the character and calling him back for a second shoot, Williams said.

“It was definitely fun and I’m excited to possibly do some more things with this,” Williams said. “I hope it turns out well, because I think the whole Hammock Coast concept is a good idea. Most people think Myrtle Beach when you drive up that way, but there’s more out there.”

Kautz noted that Williams is only the image, not the spokesman for the campaign.

Commission members have seen some shots of Williams, but today will be their first time seeing the finished product.

“I’m excited about it,” said commission member David McMillan.

The concept for the ads, as well as the Hammock Coast brand, have gotten mixed results from locals, and McMillan said he knows it’s not possible to make everybody happy. But he hopes people will go to today’s unveiling with an open mind and listen to what Rawle Murdy has to say.

“They’ve got a good idea,” he said. “Just about every agency [the county] has dealt with in the past has recommended a branding campaign.”

Hammock Coast successfully incorporates all the areas of the county, which was important to the commission, Henry said.

“We need it to be a combo and not have one slogan for Pawleys Island and another one for Murrells Inlet,” she said. “This covers Andrews all the way to Garden City and not just one little vacation area, so the entire county is a winner.”

Henry said there are still a lot of people in Georgetown County who don’t know about the campaign, so this event will be more of an introduction for many than an attempt to win them over.

“I hope they like it, or learn to like it, and will be proud of it,” she said.

Chamber officials are hoping the unveiling will draw about 100 people.

“We’ve gotten a great response from companies that do real estate rentals,” Hogan said. “A lot of them are bringing their staff.

Hogan said she has seen some of the finished ads and “they’re great, but Rawle Murdy is awesome, so I expect nothing less than excellence from them.”

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