Houston wants others to learn to like us

March 11, 2008 5:55:19 PM PDT
A lot of us may think Houston is the best city in the country, but convincing out-of-state tourists may be a tougher sell. For years, Houston has struggled with defining the city's image. Now there's another push for a new look.

The "My Houston" campaign was launched late last year with an ambitious goal -- to put Houston on the tourist and convention map using local celebrities. It tries to solve Houston's image problem -- the problem of not having an image at all.

The TV spots are slick and sophisticated, showcasing Houston's art, food and fashion offerings. The spokespeople are local celebrities, including designer Chloe Dao.

She said, "My image of Houston is really, opportunity. It's a great city that's sophisticated, that's fun, that's growing."

Dao was one of the first to join the "My Houston" campaign, the latest effort by the convention and visitors bureau to tackle one of Houston's ongoing problems -- its image.

Chris Verducci said, "I wouldn't say it's an image problem, but probably a lack of one."

And that's what Greg Ortale, CEO of the Greater Houston CVB wants to change.

"To really attack the perception that there is... You know, that there's more personality to Houston than what they think of -- you know, oil, cowboys, nothing in between," Ortale said.

With its glossy print outs and TV spots, this campaign is aimed at outsiders trying to shape the image of Houston. But locals we talked to say this city is just fine the way it is.

"I think the good thing about Houston is that we don't have an image, I think that's a positive thing," explained resident Marcus Carter. "I think it allows people to come here and find a niche. I think trying to create something where nothing exists is kind of difficult."

But the convention and visitors bureau is convinced that Houston needs a bigger personality. While business is still booming, attracting the tourist and convention dollars remains challenging. That's something Ortale hopes this campaign will turn around.

He said, "We think Houston is a global city. It has its own personality, it has its own uniqueness, and we want to present that to the world."

The My Houston campaign is advertising in newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and other non-traditional travel publications. The entire project, spread over a few years, is expected to cost around $1.3 million.

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