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Ad campaign brings out the ‘Charlie West’ in everyone

Craig Cunningham
Alisa Bailey, president and CEO of the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, left, and Jama Jarrett, vice president of operations and communications, discuss the agency's new ad campaign, "I'm Charlie West."

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Are you Charlie West?

The Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau has asked notable locals to take on the guise of the community's everyman.

The bureau will launch its "I'm Charlie West" ad campaign Thursday during a West Virginia Power baseball game at Appalachian Power Park, said Alisa Bailey, bureau chief operating officer and president.

Although the spelling can vary, Charlie West or Charley West is synonymous with aspects of life in Charleston, West Virginia.

In airline parlance, Charlie West - or the call letters CRW - differentiates Charleston, West Virginia, from Charlie South in Charleston, South Carolina.

For many years, the local minor league baseball team was the Charleston Charlies, represented by a smiling baseball wearing a derby hat and smoking a cigar.

Then there's the Charlie West Blues Fest, a relatively new summer music event.

And, of course, there's the Daily Mail's own news-observing quipster, Charley West, who has lived in the index box on the front page for more than 50 years.

"People know Charlie West," Bailey said. "He's a very recognizable figure."

So now people need to BE Charlie West.

Charleston personalities like Mayor Danny Jones, renowned jazz pianist Bob Thompson and Georgette Rashid George, who is president of the Monarch Family of Hotels, are embracing their inner Charlies for the campaign.

Each notable - called an ambassador by Bailey - will describe why they live in the area and what they love about Charleston.

They then publicly declare, "I'm Charlie West."

The billboards where various people proclaim being Charlie West already can be spotted throughout Kanawha County.

Commercials are also airing on television, and advertisements will appear in local print media. 

The campaign was sparked by a study that shows one of the biggest reasons people come to Charleston is to visit friends and family, Bailey said. So community members end up being unofficial ambassadors for Charlie West.

Local firm Charles Ryan Associates drafted the campaign. The creative process took several months from beginning to end, said Shayna Varner, an account executive with the firm.

Informal research conducted by the firm showed that those living in the area were already referring to the area as Charlie West, she said.

"We really wanted to focus on the moniker that people were already using," Varner said.

Other efforts are under way to market what the bureau refers to as "hip, historic" Charleston.

The organization's website has been redesigned, Bailey said, allowing bureau partners such as local hotels and retail shops to access their section of the page to place features and deals. They also can post pictures of their restaurant, venue or hotel rooms on the site.

"People want to see a picture of their room before they book," Bailey said.

The new website is more colorful than the bureau's former page.

"We think it even looks more hip," she said. 

Bailey hopes the freshened website will help market the city to prospective travelers, vacationers and conventions.

"We have to sell more than just meeting space in Charleston," she said. "We have to sell Charleston as a destination."             

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon.

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