“What happens here, stays here” is one of the most effective marketing slogans of the last 20 years, and it’s back, in a new TV spot from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).

What happens here stays here

A still from the new LVCVA ad spot selling Vegas’ promise of “adult freedom” to tourists, the latest incarnation of the iconic “What happens here, stays here” campaign. (Image: LVCVA)

Directed by Roderick Fenske, a former Nevada resident, the first of two new spots designed to lure tourists to Las Vegas is entitled “Dream Vacation.” It features a woman in a restaurant daydreaming about a recent trip to the city, only to realise that her wild reminiscences are being broadcast to her friends via a giant thought bubble above her head.

Horrified, she pops it with a fork. Cue the familiar tagline.

In a bid to help the Vegas brand reach a global audience, Fenske filmed three version of the spot, using different actors and different languages including English, French and Spanish. Fenske said it was an honor to work on one of the “most iconic campaigns of all time” adding be believed the phrase had evolved beyond a slogan, into something that had had a “lasting impact on pop culture.”

Origin of the Slogan

He’s not wrong. The slogan arguably inspired a host of movies like The Hangover, while it definitely inspired the 2008 romantic comedy What Happens in Vegas, starring Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz.

The campaign was dreamed up in 2003 during a brainstorming session at ad agency R&R Partners following a year’s research into the Las Vegas tourism industry.

R&R’s brief was to brand Las Vegas as something more than just a gambling destination and the firm soon realized that, to tourists, more than anything the city represented escapism and boundless “adult freedom.”

But the phrase itself is borrowed, adapted from an earlier mantra “what happens on tour, stays on tour,” thought to have originated in the 1970’s among rugby teams on the tournament circuit.

It later spread to become widely used by all kinds of touring sports teams and rock bands on both sides of the Atlantic.

Acclaimed Campaign

Nevertheless, the 2003 campaign that appropriated the concept to sell Vegas received widespread acclaim. It was hailed by USA Today as the “most effective” advertising campaign of the year and won numerous awards.

“One of the greatest challenges a brand can face is the ability to maintain relevance in a market that is ever-changing,” Rob Torres, managing director of Travel Google, explained in the LVCVA press release.

“The LVCVA and R&R Partners’ ‘What Happens Here, Stays Here’ campaign skillfully overcomes that hurdle by presenting storylines that assume a certain level of risk and land outside of most brands’ comfort zones, in true Las Vegas style.”