LAS VEGAS — Tear down your red velvet ropes, Las Vegas.
The Stratosphere casino-hotel's new marketing campaign, which masquerades as a cause, is appealing to a crowd of likely Las Vegas Strip visitors that's less keen on nightclub bottle service or high-priced fine-dining and more interested in cheap drinks and freebies.
"A great getaway has become a phony, fancy-pants ego trip," says the casino-hotel's "everyman-ifesto" posted on its website.
If that's true, it doesn't seem to be dissuading many. Las Vegas attracted a record 41.1 million visitors last year.
Still, the Stratosphere, with its towering 1,149-foot stature that's nearly twice the height of Seattle's Space Needle, wants some of those visitors to know there's a place in town where they can be comfortable in their own skin, "without the pretense," said Paul Hobson, the casino-hotel's general manager.
"Here's to knowing who you are even if a bouncer doesn't," reads one of the property's slogans.
"A bottle of booze should not be a mortgage payment," reads another.
Before the Stratosphere launched the campaign, the 2,427-room casino-hotel flummoxed locals with 10 days of billboard advertising along Interstate 15 that simply said, "What happened to Las Vegas?"
Southern California and Phoenix residents should expect to see the latest campaign pop up soon, as well as markets in Canada.
It's been about three years since the Stratosphere last seriously marketed itself. That campaign — "elevate your expectations" — was focused on reintroducing the casino-hotel to visitors as part of a $7.4 million advertising effort.
Hobson said the latest marketing effort is an honest reflection of the property that has never tried to be something it isn't. It's not a gilded monolith. It doesn't have a dancing fountain set to classical music.
Even the financial reports from owner American Casino & Entertainment Properties LLC tell investors the company caters to "middle-market" customers and it likes it that way.
Sara Benson, a Lonely Planet travel guide writer, said there's a division among Las Vegas visitors: those who seek out the deluxe experience on the Strip, "and people who dearly miss the old Vegas that the ad campaign is appealing to." Most of those people have turned to downtown's Fremont Street.
Benson said the Stratosphere was smart for tapping into a brewing discontent among visitors feeling "nickel and dimed," although that ire has been aimed more squarely on resort fees tacked onto nightly hotel stays. The Stratosphere has those, too — $20.15 a night on top of the rate, according to booking site Vegas.com.
Still, Benson said the Stratosphere represents a bargain.
"You want to understand Vegas on a budget? We're going to stay at the Stratosphere," she said she told an editor of the travel guide.
Hobson said the timing was right for the marketing campaign considering the revived attention on the north end of the Strip.
The edge of town is hoping for a bit of a renaissance. The SLS hotel-casino emerged from the Sahara's bones late last year in hopes of attracting a hip, high-end crowd, and MGM Resorts International will be hosting the Rock in Rio outdoor music festival in May on an otherwise vacant lot nearby.
If the Las Vegas Strip were a seesaw, the Stratosphere, which debuted in 1996, would be the kid on the ground readying for the rise.
Where it stands tall on the Strip's farthest northern edge is past acres of vacant land and cavernous shells of casino-hotels that were never built. It's where the throngs of walking tourists become a trickle and the nearest neighbors are quickie wedding chapels and kitschy gift shops.
It's an unusual spot that's always "straddled the Strip and downtown," said University of Nevada, Las Vegas, history professor Michael Green.
He said the Stratosphere sees an opportunity as Las Vegas has strayed from promising bargains, and "heaven knows Las Vegas is known for trying to take advantage of opportunities."
"It's ironic that it's coming as the economy is supposed to be recovering," Green said.