by Emma Specter
MGM Resorts International sparked controversy this week with a new #VegasStrong ad released last Sunday, two weeks after a mass shooting at its Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas claimed the lives of at least 58 people and injured 527 more.
Released on October 15, the 30-second TV spot is set to Odetta's "This Little Light Of Mine," superimposing the text "Together we are one, together we rise, together we shine" over blurred lights and aerial shots of the Vegas strip—immediately before cutting to the golden lion of the MGM Resorts logo.
MGM's #VegasStrong spot was reportedly quickly edited together to replace a previously scheduled ad titled "Welcome To The Show," which the company posted to YouTube two weeks prior to the shooting and which they wisely deemed too festive to run in the aftermath, as Adweek explains. The revised, more somber ad does not directly reference the shooting spree or gunman Stephen Paddock, who was a frequent gambler whose stay at the MGM-owned Mandalay Bay hotel was comped, according to New York Magazine.
Reactions to the MGM video have been mixed, with Business Insider calling the ad "powerful" while the Daily Mail says the company is being "slammed" for the ad's tastelessness. It is not hard to see the ad through the cynical eyes of a Las Vegas resort and casino, clearly trying to commercialize and/or downplay the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
I hate seeing this on tv. It's too soon and disrespectful to the grieving families. Please pull this - it sounds like a marketing campaign!— Barbara Alberts (@BarbaraAlberts) October 17, 2017
The MGM Resorts #VegasStrong ad seems oddly capitalistic in the wake of a horrific tragedy. Maybe ban guns from your hotels and screen bags.— G.E. Anderson (@g_e_anderson) October 15, 2017
America 2017: in a cab in Vegas & radio ad for a shooting range & “all your gun needs” is followed by a PSA for #VegasStrong. I just can’t.— Meghan Arnold🤦♀️ (@MeghanCArnold) October 16, 2017
"We created this spot to reflect the strength and resilience of Las Vegas, of MGM Resorts, of Mandalay Bay and of all of our employees," MGM Resorts' Chief Experience and Marketing Officer Lili Tomovich said in a statement to LAist on Wednesday, adding, "The response to the message has been overwhelmingly positive. It reinforces our promise to the world that we’ll remain strong and united in the face of adversity.”
The Las Vegas Tourism Bureau, meanwhile, has created two TV spots of its own that have been done in better taste, perhaps, but still could strike some as "too soon," given their intent to draw visitors in the wake of a tragedy that might scare them off.
The first is narrated by Las Vegas hometown hero Andre Agassi.