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CVI billboard attracts attention

by Linda Hiller

It’s a David and Goliath story, only it started with a billboard instead of a slingshot.

The billboard in question is just this side of Reno on the west side of Highway 395. Surely you’ve seen it just as you pass the Mount Rose Highway – it features a striking, scenic picture of the Carson Valley, taken by Minden photographer Jay Aldrich.

There, the majestic snow-capped mountains, with Job’s Peak prominently visible, are reflected in a body of water. It’s beautiful, it’s restful – it makes you sigh and wish it didn’t take so long to get home from Reno.

But the clincher to the billboard, the really catchy part, is the four-word phrase under the scene: “Build this, Las Vegas.” It’s brilliant, and it’s getting attention.

“We have had a Reno newspaper call us about it and then I got a call from a reporter at the Las Vegas Sun, and they want to know about the billboard,” said Bill Henderson, the Carson Valley Inn’s director of sales and marketing. “We’re just a little ol’ business in Minden, and one billboard has sure gotten us noticed.”

– About CVI. The Carson Valley Inn opened in 1984 with 100 rooms, 150 slots, six table games and 250 employees. The resort now has 550 slots, 11 table games, a sports book, three restaurants, one coffee bar, four lounges, a 59-site RV resort, a wedding chapel, a gift shop and 540 employees. But it is nowhere near the size of any major Las Vegas resort.

n Getting the word out. Billboard advertising is nothing new at the inn – they’ve been doing it for 10 years at that same location, Henderson said.

“We usually change it every year,” he said. “The other one that got lots of comments was one called ‘chip shot,’ with ‘chip’ (gaming chips) on one side, and ‘shot'(a golf club) on the other side. It was a clever idea and done well – we got lots of comments on that one, but not as many as this current one.”

The Minden casino resort has advertised with a Reno company, GustinCurtis, Inc., for the past dozen or so years, Henderson said. It was this company that came up with the latest billboard idea.

“Basically, we try to ask ourselves, ‘How does a little place like us get our message across without doing what everyone else has done?'” Henderson explained. “GustinCurtis said they wanted to work on some different ways to get our message across, and when they came to us with it, Jeane (Mulreany, the owner) said, ‘Do it.’ Based on the number of people who have commented on it, I’d say it is a big success.”

Henderson said billboard advertising doesn’t necessarily make customers flock to a place like the Carson Valley Inn, but the name recognition is an important benefit to this type of display that commuters drive by day after day.

“We don’t pay nearly this much, but in some of the bigger cities, you can pay up to $20,000 a month for a good billboard,” he said. “We plan to put this same ‘Build this, Las Vegas’ billboard up south of Gardnerville in the next month or so.”

– GustinCurtis did it. Mark Curtis, the Curtis in GustinCurtis, said the idea for the billboard came out of a desire on the part of both he and Dan Gustin to take the Carson Valley Inn to a different level of advertising.

“We think it’s a great little property and thought it needed a higher lever of advertising,” Curtis said. “I remember sitting here at the desk, thinking, ‘It’s a great, beautiful place,’ and the funniest part about it is that at the time, the Las Vegas convention authority was touting Lake Mead and how beautiful it was, and how Reno can’t do this, and I thought, ‘The Carson Valley Inn is in this incredible Valley, and why not point to that?’ It’s kind of like David and Goliath – the little guy flicking the fly off the nose of the giant.”

GustinCurtis has larger clients than the Carson Valley Inn, Curtis said, including Wells Fargo Bank, Washoe Health, Hometown Health, Advanced Vision and Laser Centers and more.

“But this is definitely the most commented-on piece of advertising we’ve had,” he said.