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Plot Thickening Dept: Mirage Fires Ad Agency

By Chuckmonster on Friday, 15th February 2013 11:23pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 11


When Felix Rappaport - a long time MGM Resorts executive with multiple tours of duty at the helm of myriad Strip properties under his belt - abruptly resigned from his post as president of Mirage, it raised flags amongst industry watchers. There was no logical reason why this loyal MGM soldier would quit at his own volition, save some personal issues, heath, family or otherwise. With the beacon of Phil Ruffin overtures to purchase the Mirage beeping off the bow of MGM's financially listing ship fresh in our minds, the potential for Mirage to be thrown overboard stretched like dawn over a flotsam filled sea.

Two months later, a new property president is named in Trevor Schirrer, another tenured MGM exec who has done time as Executive Vice President of Operations at Mirage, Senior Vice President of Marketing at New York-New York and stints at Bellagio and Golden Nugget. With the announcement came news that Mirage was embarking on an extensive renovation of their casino floor.

People retire, quit, resign or are fired and usually their lieutenants replace them. Simple, right?

Maybe not.

Less than a month ago, Mirage also abruptly shit canned their agency of record, David&Goliath after only six months on the job.

Agency of record? What the hell is that? The simplest way of explaining this is in Mad Men terminology. The fictitious Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce an advertising agency. They create brand identities, marketing plans, design creative assets and handle the placement and purchasing of advertising for their clients. The client, in addition to paying for these services, identifies the firm as "agency of record" publicly so those in the industry know who is holding the rights and responsibilities for the clients marketing voice.

Six or so months ago, The Mirage hired David&Goliath to be their agency. D&G handles other MGM Resorts accounts including New York New York, Monte Carlo and Hotel 32. Firing an agency with a known track record for the parent company in six short months at roughly the same time that the property president is "resigned" is most definitely an eyebrow raiser. Six months is not enough time to design and develop let alone test, implement and optimize a brand marketing campaign. The last time I undertook a ginormous full scale redesign of VT (which included Reno and AC sites at the time) it took about 8 months from conception to launch, granted I'm a one man wrecking crew, but ideas take time to develop and grow.

It is certainly possible that Mirage just didn't like D&G's work or process and decided to give them the boot, but the timing of these changes is uncanny. I wonder if we're actually on the precipice of a much more dramatic change at Mirage than MGM is letting on. With their debt covenants significantly satisfied, MGM has a bit more room to maneuver and perhaps might be eyeballing Mirage not as jetsam, but as an undertapped gold mine of square footage waiting to be squeezed double the current casino drop and more importantly - find high priced partners to pay high priced rent.

The point being is that perhaps MGM corporate made plans to thoroughly re-invigorate Mirage and when their financials turned around, go time arrived. A new direction for Mirage wouldn't fit an old guard guy like Rappaport, he was in charge of Luxor's "Pyramid" renovation and failed. As a steward of idling properties, he is the perfect guy, but to refocus an aging Mirage in a post-Cosmopolitan universe (did I just type that?) requires a bold new thinking. Now, Trevor Schirrer isn't spritely, he's got 25 years experience, BUT he has sat at the table of Marketing and Advertising at NYNY and most likely worked directly with D&G when there. Could Schirrer have pulled the rip cord on D&G as the ink was drying on his promotion? Who knows.

Something is afoot at Mirage, and I have an inkling that it is a bit more involved than new paint and a new celebrity chef steak joint.

Tagged: mirage   renovations   spitballin   


Comments & Discussion:

We have all talked so much about The Mirage because it was Steve Wynn's breakout property on the Strip and the first to provide a real "Wow" factor. I watched that piece of barren land being developed, and when all the landscaping and palm trees were moved in from the staging area at the corner of the Strip and Sahara, The Mirage became magical. However, that was then; this is now. Chuck writes, "bold, new thinking." I'm not smart enough to know what that would entail, but since I'm genetically a doubting Thomas, what WOULD it entail? Steve Wynn is out of the picture, and MGM seems to have such a hard time shaking its corporate demeanor, what could they do to reinvent the property? Bellagio is still the, or one of, the finest properties in town, and Aria, although I haven't seen it, has found its way as a more contemporary high-end resort which complements the more traditional Bellagio.

We've also talked in the past about how small the rooms at The Mirage are and how one can touch all four walls in the bathroom at once. I can't imagine MGM spending the money to combine standard rooms into fewer, but larger, suites and mini-suites.

Yes, a total re-do of the casino and new partnered restaurants would help, but I'm still trying to understand how MGM can reinvigorate the property to bring back its old glory. When MGM Grand Detroit consistently outperforms The Mirage, won't MGM be cautious in pouring too much money into it? It seems like it will be a lot easier to reinvigorate Mandalay Bay because they can start with a clean sheet of paper by converting TheHotel into The Delano Las Vegas.

As I said, I'm a doubting Thomas. I'd love to hear some good ideas from everyone here. Maybe Jim Murren will join the conversation :-)

The reported redoing of the casino would help a lot, and I'd love to see them go back to something close to what Wynn had down there, a more tropical theme. I always thought what MGM did to the Mirage's floor was horrible.

Second bringing the tropical theme back - Maybe take japonais out and extend the forest section again.

I like the Mirage alot but, at best, it's a "throughway" to another destination. The atrium and aquarium never change, the casino is like every other de-themed MGM property and there's no restaurants there that make me want to divert from walking past the lake and into the property. (Aside from Carnegie's Deli but I have to have a large appetite for that and I'm usually saving that for a steak dinner... it'd be great after a night of gambling but I'm NEVER THERE for gambling and I'm not going to hoof it there from my other usual haunts).

On the other hand I will visit Mandelay Bay just because the casino atmosphere is interesting (and I take the tram and bypass the Luxor and Excalibur... although I more often than not make a stop in at the Luxor just to look at it in awe and wonder how cool it might've been before they de-themed it...)

the Mirage needs to do one thing to change the whole atmosphere of the joint...that would be changing the casino ceiling. From the day it opened I always thought how poor the ceiling was...not because of how low it was but because of how ugly it was too. Not that it was ugly, it was just too 80s and out dated. They need change it.

The chances of MGM going back to the Wynn era tropical theme is absolutely zero. I do agree with Romaman about the ugly ass ceiling at Mirage. Perhaps the only worse one is New York New York. Painting it black made it worse. I'm hopeful that this will be included in the casino renovation, otherwise all they're doing is moving slots, painting columns and changing the carpet which doesn't count as a casino renovation, that is routine upkeep.

I've always had an infatuation with the Mirage, but never enough to stay and gamble there.
The whole place has always had a 70's Playboy Club feel to it to me (in a good way). Low ceilings and mid-level luxury. Just my impression.

Wife and I always have at least one late nite meal at the bar at Japonaise each trip. The tramalam to Treasure Island is way fun in a Disneyland kind of way.

Throw in the dolphins and the pool - we're ready to stay there...just never quite pulled the trigger.

Last time we stayed at the Mirage, we wanted to have a quiet drink around 11pm on Saturday - there was no-where we could do that, anything resembling a bar was an "Ultra-lounge" or Club where you couldn't hear yourself thing, let alone have a conversation.

To me that says it all about what the Mirage has become - slanted to the younger crowd. If that is what makes the numbers then good luck to them, but it will be interesting to see if these changes mean a movement in who/how they are focusing their marketing.

My guess is that MGM wants to poach Cosmopolitan's uber-hip, under-40, "let's go to Vegas to make fun of it" crowd, and gave David&Goliath the impossible task of out-Cosmoing Cosmo without looking like a cheap imitator.

"Last time we stayed at the Mirage, we wanted to have a quiet drink around 11pm on Saturday - there was no-where we could do that, anything resembling a bar was an "Ultra-lounge" or Club where you couldn't hear yourself thing, let alone have a conversation.

To me that says it all about what the Mirage has become - slanted to the younger crowd. If that is what makes the numbers then good luck to them, but it will be interesting to see if these changes mean a movement in who/how they are focusing their marketing."

That's basically what a fine majority of the strip has become. It's disappointing. Wynn and Encore were good places to have a quiet drink and relax.....then the clubs invaded in full force.

My solution: Off-strip for fridays and saturdays. Laugh if you want, but I still enjoy South Point on the weekend.

The better question is who will they hire next...
SK&G the minds behind "Don't forget to breathe" and all the other forgettable aria stuff?
R&R also known as the people that created "What happens in Vegas" and all the subsequent LVCVA stuff?
RPA (based in LA) who did the Mandalay Bay rebrand and came up "Resortist"?
They can't use B&P who currently does all of Bellagio's work because they fired them to use D&G.

Personally they need to try something new so maybe a small independent agency or someone that's not in Las Vegas so they can stand out.

@billyinlasvegas they hired EFM to replace D&G. http://efmagency.com

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