SWING AND A MISS
Here’s the thing about swinging big: although the contact is more likely to knock the ball out the park, the strikeouts can be all the more spectacular.
Such is the case with the “Don’t Be a Bleephole” song, Mammoth Lakes Tourism’s (MLT) ill-fated attempt to create material that discourages bad behavior from guests.
The song launched with a partner website (NoBleepholes.com) on VisitMammoth.com and a billboard promotion in Mojave late last week.
The lyrics are/were as follows:
In Mammoth Lakes, we love our town and visitors
And we love Mother Nature but lately some behaviors are taking a toll
So we’re channeling Mother Nature to see what she’d say
Guess she kinda has a potty mouth because she says do come visit, do enjoy yourself but…
Don’t be an ***hole/Don’t be a ****head
A some kind of rude SOB
We’d love to see you out here in beautiful Mammoth Lakes
Just as long as you don’t come up here and **** up this place
But if you’re cool and kind
(Respect the outdoors, pick up after your dog, and put out your campfires)
We welcome you to join us and see what Mammoth Lakes is all about
But if you’re be an ***hole
Maybe you should just stay home
And if you’re cool and kind
You know, a considerate non-littering leave no trace kind of vibe,
We hope that you can join us and
Get out there and have yourself a great old time
But please try not to be an ***hole
And we’ll all get along just fine.
So strong was the public response against the campaign that by Monday, August 2, the song had vanished from YouTube with the billboard and materials on promotional websites as the only evidence it had existed at all.
One Facebook post about the campaign has nearly 300 comments about the song on it, the vast majority coming from locals with staunch opposition to the Bleephole concept.
The Sheet spoke with Mono County Supervisor Stacy Corless, who said of the campaign “It’s an enormous embarrassment. It’s just awful.”
“We can’t let cynicsm win,” she continued, “We’re doomed if we do and this bleephole thing seems incredibly cynical.”
“We need to swallow our pride, extend our hands and say “hey we’re in this together’” Corless added. “We have to stop being the bleepholes”
Any links to the website now direct viewers to Mammoth Lakes Tourism’s “Hug What You Love campaign.”
The Bleephole song and campaign was first presented at MLT’s July 7 Board Meeting,
where it was first described as a “playful song” that would be promoted through “Easter Eggs” found via the Mojave billboard, stickers, and posters. The idea was to catch people’s attention and drive the message of how to recreate responsibly.
The promotion was described as “John [Urdi]’s baby” by Senior Content Marketing Manager Meghan Miranda.
Urdi said at the July meeting, “The idea is that we wanna let people know that when they come here, to be respectful.”
“The goal is not to be offensive,” he explained, “The only people who are going to be offended are people we don’t want here anyway.”
The only member of the board or staff who expressed uncertainty at the July meeting was John Mendel, who asked if the campaign would be tested before a full release to gauge general reaction. He was told that doing so would “set us back time-wise”
Urdi put out a letter on Tuesday, August 3 (reprinted on page four), in which he explained the thought process behind the song, writing “The idea for Bleephole came after hearing feedback from residents regarding disrespectful visitors, as well as increasing anti-tourism sentiment, locally and around the world. We recognized an opportunity to add a new layer to the plan, a much more direct message that was viral in nature (minimum investment) and had the ability to break through and begin the needed dialogue around how our visitors should respect our community and the environment.
The paid media cost clocked in at just over $6,000, per the letter, which concludes with the recognition that MLT made a mistake, that the campaign was too direct and offensive for some, and all efforts would be directed to the “Hug What You Love” campaign.
The campaign was the first topic of discussion at MLT’s board meeting on Wednesday, August 4. Prompted by board chair Jeremy Goico, Urdi reiterated much of the sentiment contained in the letter, saying “the intent was to have something more direct on expectations of visitors, a way to get people’s attention.”
Goico, speaking to the community on behalf of the board and MLT, said “We owe you an apology …We were trying to be creative. we were trying to respond to feedback we’d been getting from the community.”
“We took a little bit of a shot with a creative solution to that and it failed, so we’ve responded to that, and taken it down,” he continued.
Goico also took time to remind attendees of the positive impact the organization has on the community.
“Making a mistake is one thing, recovering from it is another,” Mendel said during his comments; he referenced guests reporting negative interactions with locals as a reason to continue to work towards a reconciliation of the responsible tourism issue.
“We have work on both sides of this coin to do this,” he said, “On one hand, our guests are our lifeblood, on the other, it’s the solution we love to hate.”
Pat Foster said that when he first heard the song, he had internal doubts but didn’t express them after seeing none of his fellow board members offer a response short of Mendel’s.
“We didn’t have a lot of discussion,” Foster said, “As a board, each one of us needs to accept responsibility.”
Board treasurer John Morris saw things a little bit differently.
“I had several phone calls with people that said it was the best $6,000 MLT has ever spent,” he said, “I’d hope the community would have a little more humor about thing … Personally I think it was funny and serves a purpose, personally I feel sometimes people need a kick in the butt.”
Morris said that he was “ticked off at people in the community” for “the way that MLT’s staff personally have been affected and attacked.”
“It is not appropriate in my opinion for this to fall on Mr. Urdi or his staff because we have as much culpability as anybody else,” Morris said, inviting the public to reach out to him if they wanted to talk about MLT.
“The folks that work for this organization are simply trying to make Mammoth a better place to live … [the reaction]’s disgusting as far I’m concerned.”
Urdi closed out the board/staff comments portion saying “One of the Facebook posts out there commented on facts that we spent 100’s of thousands and millions of dollars … the only paid media placement was the billboard in Mojave.”
There were production and other costs associated with the billboard, he said; “In total it’s about $23,000 that we’re into for the campaign.”
Corless called in during the public comment portion of the item.
“Thank you for making this quick course correction with a campaign that was in my opinion discordant with the message we want to extend to the rest of the world,” she said, adding “Don’t tell people to reach out to you, please reach into the community.”