VisitLEX is going above and beyond in launching its latest marketing campaign targeting extraterrestrial visitors.

The CVB worked with a team of scientists and scholars from Lexington, KY., to beam a message toward potentially habitable planets in the TRAPPIST-1 solar system 40 light years away. If all goes well, first contact will be made at Kentucky Horse Park or another local attraction in about 80 years.

Sparked by an increase in UFO-related news coverage, VisitLex and its creative partners, Cornett, began mapping out this star trek last summer. The message, the first interstellar ad, is an invitation to visit. As anyone who has seen the movie “Contact” knows, aliens are not likely to respond to English, and scientists planned accordingly.

A Shot in the Dark

According to Leslie Miller, vice president of marketing at VisitLEX, logistics included:

  • The images and audio were converted into binary code and transmitted via a modified engraving laser. The laser was connected to a telescope, which aimed the message at TRAPPIST-1.
  • The message contains symbols for the elements of life on Earth (carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen), which references a previous transmission to TRAPPIST-1.
  • Also included are the molecules for water and ethanol (the primary ingredients in Bourbon, a signature Lexington product), as well as dopamine—the reward molecule synthesized by most plants and animals on Earth, which may be a similarity in extraterrestrial life (and because Lexington is fun).
  • The bitmap concludes with Lexington’s iconic Bluegrass horizon line—as life on other planets would likely recognize a horizon line with sun and moon(s).
  • The team also included area photos and an audio recording based on the idea that music, like math, may be a universal language.

Yes, the FAA approved the transmission.

VisitLex Aliens

What on Earth?

While the long-term goal of attracting ET may be a bit of a long shot, there is a short-term, more tangible result of firing off this invitation, said Miller.

“The goal of the campaign is to break through the cluttered news and tourism space and grab people’s attention,” said Miller. “Culturally, there is great interest in space travel right now, and this campaign allowed us to insert Lexington into the conversation.”

Materials, including a visitor’s guide, beamed out answer the universal question, “What on earth is there to do in Lexington?”

Answers include enjoying outstanding food and beverage (Bourbon included), exploring the beautiful bluegrass fields, listening to authentic blues, and of course, enjoying the horses.

Added Miller: “The campaign also allows us to show a side of Lexington that many people may not be aware of: our incredible science and innovation community.”


Geeking Out

Indeed, the alien outreach is just the latest in a series of campaigns VisitLEX has created to break the mold from traditional marketing. Notably, the CVB has previously taken inspiration from “The Queen’s Gambit,” the Netflix series based on the destination, and the cultural obsession with shoes.

In this new campaign, the sense of humor occasionally gives way to a sense of humor. For instance, one of the scientists involved in the launch apologizes for “Mac and Me,” the ill-conceived knockoff of “E.T.”

Nevertheless, much of the effort is grounded in actual science–including choosing the target destination. The TRAPPIST-1 system is the most studied planetary system outside of our own and is home to the largest number of potentially habitable, Earth-sized planets currently known. It will take 40 years for the advertisement to reach its target–and at least another 40 years to receive a response.

Until then, VisitLEX will continue to try to appeal to travelers closer to home.

“We believe Lexington is the best place on Earth,” said VisitLEX President Mary Quinn Ramer.

Photo Credit: VisitLEX

Have a story idea or want to be featured? Email Matt Swenson at matt.swenson@informa.com.

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