An Alabama newspaper editor/columnist is no fan of Covington’s vampire-themed tourism video, writing a scathing column this past weekend that called the video "lame, disgusting and downright tacky."
Kyle Mooty, editor and general manager of The Enterprise Ledger in Enterprise, Ala., said the tourism video, inspired by popular tours of "The Vampires Diaries" filming sites, was poorly received in his town during a recent advertising run, but Hunter Hall, president of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce, said the video was an intentional spoof aimed at the audience that watches the popular CW Network show.
When the chamber unveiled its new tourism website, GoCovington.com, it also rolled out a
professionally-produced promotional video that shows a male vampire leading a mother and daughter on a tour of "Vampire Diaries" filming sites. At the end of the purposefully over-the-top video, the daughter comes back from looking at a site to find her mother missing, while the vampire eventually shows off a sheepish smile with blood-covered teeth.
The video was played several times during an online broadcast of the Dixie Junior Boys World Series, which featured a team from Enterprise. After watching the ad at jockjive.com, Mooty wrote, "The video has scared me away from that town forever.
"No, the lame-acting vampire who stalks a mother and daughter and eventually consumes (we are led to believe) the mother, hardly scared me; it was the fact that some higher-ups in the town actually approved the video to be used as a promotional tool for the town. Who wants to be in a town with leadership that careless?" Mooty wrote in an Aug. 11 column on dothaneagle.com/enterprise_ledger.
Noting the video never specifically states that "Vampire Diaries" is filmed in Covington (though it does imply it) , Mooty called the representation of Covington "pathetic."
"It would be akin to Brentwood, Calif., showing the chase of O.J. Simpson in his buddy’s Bronco as a promotional tool for that Los Angeles suburb," Mooty wrote. "Let’s go ahead and have Cincinnati promote the fact that Charles Manson was born there, Chicago promote that O’Hare is considered the most dangerous airport in the U.S. or Pinos Altos, N.M., promote the fact that one of its residents was killed by a mountain lion in 2008. ‘Oh boy, Mom, let’s go hiking in Pinos Altos.’"
In a follow-up email, Mooty said he didn’t write the column until he heard other residents express criticism of the ad, too.
While he understands there’s no real danger in Covington, he said he felt the town’s "beautiful scenery should be enough to sell itself rather than portraying a creepy stalker hitting on two women," and he questioned advertising to a baseball tournament for 13-year-olds, with "parents, grandparents and young kids" in the audience.
"I saw it dozens of times over three or four days, and I probably didn’t pay that close of attention until several times into it, when I realized it was actually promoting a town. I just found that very interesting, even after I learned that Covington was where (‘Vampire) Diaries’ was filmed, as I said, because there was no mention of that in the ad and I don’t think the average Joe outside of Georgia realizes that; and the fact that it was promoting tourism by showing what is basically a very creepy (grey-skinned) stalker that eventually (we are led to believe) kills one of the ladies," Mooty said in an email.
"Yes, yes, I know, it’s all in fun, but I just found it interesting for a city to promote tourism this way, especially for those outside of Covington that have no idea about the filming there of ‘Vampire Diaries.’"
Chamber President Hall said the video was made as an intentional spoof, targeted at 13-to-30-year-olds who watch the show. He said tourism numbers have increased since the new website launched.
"Mr. Mooty’s comparisons, although I understand the point he is trying to make, are a bit of a reach. Everyone knows that vampires do not exist. They are not real. They are folklore and imagination. O.J. Simpson, Charles Manson and the Pinos Alto mountain lion are real tragic situations," Hall said in an email Tuesday.
"When we sat down with the video producer, we intentionally made it a spoof on vampires, not a promotion of them. The intent and target of the advertising was not to the national tourist market — it was very targeted to 13-30-year-olds who watch the show. That is the demographic that we see here day in and day out taking the tours. The commercial producer took the tour himself for the expressed purpose of understanding the demographic and how best to capture elements that would attract a tourist to come to Covington."
Hall said there are no changes planned to the video; he did say the chamber has discussed a "more traditional Covington tourism" video and priced it, but first wanted to play off the success of "The Vampire Diaries."
Hall said feedback for the video has been great and said the video has been promoted by Mystic Falls Tours, the local tour company owned by Jessica Lowery, to its 10,815 Facebook followers and 15,101 Twitter followers, and actor Ian Somerhald’s 4.04 million Twitter followers.
"Mystic Falls Tours have increased 10 percent since the spot went viral. Jessica told me this afternoon that, ironically, a lot of people from Alabama have been on the tour (possibly a byproduct to the advertising we did at the Dixie (Junior) Boys World Series).
"On the Chamber’s YouTube page, the video has been viewed by 28,885 people, with 182 thumbs ups and 3 thumbs down," Hall said.