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New OC ad campaign launched

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OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) — The latest advertising campaign for Ocean City targets a precious commodity: the vacation day.

In two new 30-second commercials for the resort, actors represent squandered vacation time. Wearing yellow "Vacation Day" shirts, they deadpan how they've instead been used for doctor appointments, assembling bunk beds, garage reorganization or waiting for cable guy.

"I've been rolled over since 1987," says one actor, sporting a denim vest and a mustache-mullet combo.

Andy Malis, president of Ocean City's ad agency, MGH, said it was an idea borne from the headlines: fewer Americans are using their vacation days. In 2013, the average U.S. worker earned 14 vacation days but used only 10, Malis said.

"It was one of those light-bulb moments where we thought, the biggest competitor to Ocean City isn't the Jersey shore or Virginia Beach," Malis said. "It's that people are not spending as many days on vacation as they used to. It really matched what all the trends have been — that the middle of the week (in Ocean City) is quieter in the summer."

The commercials first aired April 1, during the opening day broadcasts of the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. Malis said the spots will air in heavier rotation next month and through the summer.

This new campaign also will enlist Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, who will show up at one lucky tourist's home to help them do all the housework they would have done on a vacation day, according to Malis.

These commercials close with a word from Rodney the Lifeguard, the de facto mascot for Ocean City. There will be eight different endings to the commercials, where Rodney calls out to a free summertime event, such as Sundaes in the Park and concerts on the beach.

"Come on, people," Rodney cheers, "they're called vacation days for a reason. Put yours to better use with a week in Ocean City, Md."

It's the sixth summer for the Rodney the Lifeguard character, who "rescues" people from their humdrum day-to-day and brings them to Ocean City. We've seen Rodney rescue people from being stuck in traffic, from office high-rises, from suburbia, and from an airplane. There was also the follow-up "Thanks, Rodney!" campaign where tourists, in turn, thanked Rodney for saving them.

When Ocean City launched the Rodney campaign at the height of the recession, it was a friendly reminder to still take that family vacation. Malis said this latest batch of ads took a similar approach.

In the future, Malis said MGH plans to transition Rodney from being an active feet-in-the-sand rescuer to a role where he's more of a "spokesguard" who explains what the resort has to offer. The focus of future ad campaigns, like this one, will be regular people.

Ocean City's tourism director Donna Abbott said resort officials are "very excited" about this year's campaign, and even had a set of the yellow "Vacation Day" shirts printed for public distribution.

"It'll resonate, they'll remember it, and hopefully think, we need to take a vacation day," Abbott said.

Malis said his creative team at MGH decided to represent vacation days on camera as actual people, for viewers to better relate to the feeling of wasting their well-earned time away from work on the mundane.

"We felt like this was something nobody else was talking about, and we could tap into," Malis said.

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Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com/

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