A Publication of WTVP

“Will your event play in Peoria? Yes!” That is the slogan driving the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s new convention marketing campaign.

It is believed Groucho Marx originally coined the phrase during the days of vaudeville. New acts were brought to town to see how they played here because Peoria was in the middle of the country, had a culturally diverse population and was known for its Midwestern values. It was thought that if audiences here liked the act, it would be popular with audiences anywhere in the country. Peoria later became a very popular test market for many products for the same reasons.

The phrase has taken a political tone in recent decades. When President Nixon was in office, senior advisor H.R. “Bob” Haldeman wondered aloud if the President’s message would “play in Peoria.” President Clinton’s campaign used the phrase many times during his 1992 run for office. After that, mainstream media began using it often.

Because that saying is what this area is most known for nationwide, the hope is to capitalize on its “fame” and have this campaign play in cities across the country, to get event planners thinking about the Peoria area when planning where to hold their next convention, conference or meeting.

Still, one might ask, “What about cities like Washington, Morton or East Peoria—how do they feel about being ‘left out’ of the campaign? Hasn’t the PACVB been pushing for more regionalism? How does ‘play in Peoria’ promote regionalism?” The honorable mayor of Morton, Norm Durflinger, and the honorable mayor of Washington, Gary Manier, said it best: “We [Peoria’s neighboring Tazewell County cities] understand the fact that, as goes Peoria, so goes the region,” says Durflinger. “And the opposite is true as well. We need each other to be successful.” Manier adds, “What’s good for Peoria is good for all of us. If Peoria is the name that’s recognized nationally, then let’s take advantage of that. It benefits us all.”

In addition to the new slogan, the accompanying graphic shows the outline of two city skylines connected by a bridge, with the Spirit of Peoria in the foreground, which highlights the river and the fact that Peoria is indeed an area, not just one city. Part of the design also shows an airplane prominently flying overhead. Visitors want to know how far the airport is or if they have to drive to another city to fly home. Perhaps the best part is the large, red “YES!” which not only boldly answers the question, “Will your event play in Peoria?” but also exudes positivism and helps instill a sense in potential clients that the Peoria area will do whatever it takes to make their events successful.

A group of meeting planners unanimously chose the new campaign over three other designs. It will be utilized through print advertising placed in targeted trade publications, a trade show booth exhibit, promotional items and direct sales materials. iBi