Tower tattoos!

Sep 25, 2007 6:48 AM

The recent trend of hanging billboard-like ads on the face of Las Vegas’ hotel towers may be a stroke of marketing genius, but it would make Howard Roark turn in his grave.

If you don’t remember Mr. Roark, he was Ayn Rand’s fictional architect in her classic novel, The Fountainhead, which was later made into a movie starring Gary Cooper.

Loosely based on the life of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Howard Roark was such an idealist about his designs that he actually blew up a project after the developers made changes he didn’t approve.

None of the Las Vegas architects contacted for this report would condone the use of dynamite in making their creative points.

In fact, none wanted to state for the record their opinion on the subject, but a couple of them used terms like "gaudy" and "desecration" when asked to comment anonymously on the practice.

Another architect suggested that building designs weren’t actually being altered and that the owners could add "accoutrements" at their discretion, no matter how "displeasing" or "ghastly."

Kind of like scratching out a cheap tattoo on a beautifully well-formed breast.

Perhaps the highest profile "tower as billboard" example is the new Jim Beam ad draped on the Rio Hotel.

The 32,000-square-foot ad celebrates September as "National Bourbon Heritage Month" and measures 400 feet by 80 feet, covering 40 stories on the side of the hotel. The ad will remain in place through November.

Building wraps like the Jim Beam ad are typically made with a number of large panels of a perforated, see-through material like vinyl.

They have become especially popular in Las Vegas, known for its larger-than-life attitude. The huge outdoor ad is tied into a number of promotions at the Rio, including bourbon-inspired dishes, and of course, a variety of cocktails.

Kevin Cooke, regional vice president for Beam Global Wine & Spirits, Inc., noted that "Las Vegas has the highest per-capita distilled spirits consumption in the country, so it’s the ideal place to celebrate the only distilled spirit that’s native to America — bourbon."

With the highest consumption of booze in the country, one must wonder why Las Vegas needs an ad to stimulate more drinking.

Then again, in 1964, Congress recognized bourbon as "America’s native spirit," so perhaps the whiskey ad can be construed as an act of patriotism.