New Mexico officials in a tourism tizzy over alien ads
I don't know what the critics are so concerned about. It's funny, isn't it?
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - New Mexico bills itself as "The Land of Enchantment." But for weeks now, a contentious debate has raged among tourism officials here over a new state-financed advertising campaign aimed at attracting vacationers.
Instead of highlighting New Mexico's picturesque desert landscapes, art galleries or centuries-old culture, the ads feature drooling, grotesque office workers from outer space chatting about their personal lives.
To some, the 30-second TV spots — which lead in roundabout fashion to the tag line that New Mexico may be "the best place in the Universe" — are provocative, funny and bold.
But to increasingly vocal critics, the ad campaign is a possible threat to the well-being of the state's $5.1 billion tourism industry. In other words, while the ads may yield a chuckle or two, the joke is on New Mexico.
Critics say the less-than-cuddly, reptilian spacemen may be more apt to baffle or frighten away a tourist than reel one in.
"New Mexico has a lot to offer — we don't need to bring our standards down," said Ken Mompellier, head of the convention and visitors bureau in Las Cruces, the state's fast-growing second-largest city, which has refused to use the alien ads to bolster local tourism pitches, as it normally would.
Rival neighboring states like Utah (with its "Life Elevated" campaign) and Colorado ("Let's Talk Colorado") appeal more directly to older, richer boomers in their tourism campaigns.
The ad makes no reference to New Mexico's most famous connection to aliens. In 1947, the U.S. military said a weather balloon crashed near Roswell in the desert, but legends persist that it was a UFO, and a small tourism industry has grown up in Roswell about the tale, complete with an annual festival and museums.
Yet the fate of the aliens remains up in the air, with the results of a study showing whether the ads actually make people visit critical to that decision, said Mike Cerletti, head of the tourism department.
"If that study shows what we think it's going to say, which is that the ad is effective, then obviously we are going to continue the campaign," he said.