Six Flags marketing: We're still open

Posted Thursday, June 18, 2009 2:09 PM | Contributed by Jeff

Theme-park giant Six Flags has filed for bankruptcy, a move that normally signals a cut in marketing spending. But in this case, Chapter 11 figures to be good news for Mr. Six. An insider familiar with the company's finances said the company spends some $60 million annually on all of its marketing, with likely increases in certain markets.

Read more from Advertising Age.

Thursday, June 18, 2009 2:22 PM

"And as we get out from under this debt, you'll see us experimenting in all sorts of marketing efforts that turn us into a 12-month [a year] business. We're just as much about the experience as the rides."

Interesting. I think most seasonal parks have expanded their seasons just about as far as they can. Shapiro's trying to take it much further than that. (he kind of segued into the above quote after talking about the Rollercoaster Cuts thing)

Just speculating, but maybe some of his "Disney" comments from back when he took over are starting to make a little more sense. I think people took it to directly mean he wants the parks to be more Disney-like and now what I think was intended was that he wants the company and the business to be more Disney-like.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009 4:21 PM

Six Flags may say "hey even though we had filed bankruptcy..we are still open", sadly a lot of people will think and say otherwise. The thing is ( and a problem for Six Flags, GM and other companies who had filed bankruptcy ) is that a lot of people no longer get their news from TV, radio and newspapers but rather its the internet. Back in the "old days" if people watched the TV news, chances are they would hear the entire news report even if they really have no interest in the story. Today, when one goes on MSN, Yahoo or whatever and sees the headline "Six Flags files Bankruptcy", unless one has an interest in Six Flags chances are they wont click on the link to read the story but that still wont stop these very same people to spread the "news" like "...hey Jim, I was checking out my email last night and I saw where Six Flags had filed bankruptcy so I guess Six Flags America is now closed".

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Thursday, June 18, 2009 4:45 PM

The Internet has surpassed newspaper, but various studies last year still put TV as the place 70+% of people are getting their news. Combine this with TV and outdoor ads, I'm sure they'll get the message out.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009 6:05 PM

Don't be so sure. I live in northwest England, about one hour's drive from Blackpool. When Pleasureland Southport (which everyone in these parts knows was operated by Blackpool Pleasure Beach) closed suddenly three years ago, DOZENS of work colleagues took great delight in informing me that "all them rides in Blackpool have closed down". Some three years later it's still a hugely persuasive urban myth in this immediate area that Blackpool Pleasure Beach no longer exists.

Last edited by Martin Valt, Thursday, June 18, 2009 6:11 PM
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Thursday, June 18, 2009 8:17 PM

Jeff said:
The Internet has surpassed newspaper, but various studies last year still put TV as the place 70+% of people are getting their news. Combine this with TV and outdoor ads, I'm sure they'll get the message out.

I am sure that is correct about the 70+% number but on the other hand as far as local TV goes, a lot of local stations have more/less stopped doing the "we give the people the news they NEED to know about " route in favor "we give the people the news they WANT to know about". Of course I can't speak for every TV station out there but a few months ago when I drove from Baltimore to Denver, I had to the chance to see the many of local TV news along the way and what did many of them consider important enough to be their top story? Fluff like American Idol stuff, Susan Boyle and her singing, Actor Seth Rogen's views on gay marriage and marijuana, Ryan Seacrest, Digital TV ( one local station spent 20 minutes of their local news just on THAT )..actually very little of actual "local news" was reported. Someof those FOX stations seems to have a big problem with this. Still it does makes me wonder how many local TV stations felt that a story like Six Flags filing bankruptcy..well how many of them actually bother to report it. I know as of last night our two main local Tv stations, even though Six Flags America is only 70 miles away, neither has yet to do a story about that.

With that being said, yes I can believe 70% plus still get their news from TV but I bet a good many of them still head to net to get their news from there as well.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009 9:09 PM

You're drawing conclusions in a box without any data. Just because you see crap on TV doesn't mean that's what people are watching the most. In the Cleveland market, the two stations that do a better job reporting generally have the better ratings, especially in the morning and late night.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009 11:52 PM

"Could your family's safety be in jeopardy on your next theme park trip? We'll tell you which amusement park is going bankrupt at 11!"

Or...

(File footage of an old "new" rollercoaster) "...And coming up at 11, we'll give you the -up's- and -down's- of the bankruptcy of a favorite local attraction, and what it will mean to you and your family!"

silly TV news. :)

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Friday, June 19, 2009 12:16 AM

Chriscub said:
Six Flags may say "hey even though we had filed bankruptcy..we are still open", sadly a lot of people will think and say otherwise. The thing is ( and a problem for Six Flags, GM and other companies who had filed bankruptcy ) is that a lot of people no longer get their news from TV, radio and newspapers but rather its the internet. Back in the "old days" if people watched the TV news, chances are they would hear the entire news report even if they really have no interest in the story. Today, when one goes on MSN, Yahoo or whatever and sees the headline "Six Flags files Bankruptcy", unless one has an interest in Six Flags chances are they wont click on the link to read the story but that still wont stop these very same people to spread the "news" like "...hey Jim, I was checking out my email last night and I saw where Six Flags had filed bankruptcy so I guess Six Flags America is now closed".

I used to be a jouralist/editor for a smaller newspaper here in Maryland. People just don't read internet headlines and call it a day. That happened in newspapers too. I couldn't tell you how many times I actually had to ask someone who might be asking me about a story in the paper if they read it. I think that is just human nature to be lazy and quick now, not the internet's fault.

In the world of newspapers this was said to be what people looked at, in order on a page when skimming it for something of interest:

Photos >> Headlines >> Graphs/Charts >> Photo Captions >> Story

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Friday, June 19, 2009 12:23 PM

Although it is out of Six Flag's control, the timing on the bankruptcy couln't have come at a worse time as the theme park season is starting to go full force...

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Friday, June 19, 2009 2:59 PM

Maybe 70% of Americans get their news from the TV, but that doesn't mean that 70% of Americans who watch TV will be correctly informed of the whole story about Six Flags and it's bankrupcy. It's obvious (even from past discussions here on CB) that there are serious misconceptions on what bankrupcy (and its various chapters) is/means for a company.

No matter how hard Six Flags tries, there will be the uninformed percentage, however small, who will be doing what Martin Valt reports. Or they will just make stuff up...

Joe, "Dude, Six Flags is bankrupt! They're closing all the parks and tearing down all the rides!

Steve, "No, they are just restructuring their debt, all the parks are open, and they will most likely be better off in the long run."

Joe, "No way, dude, I saw it on the news! Like 80 people died when Superman went too fast and flew off the end of the track. The families all sued and that's why they have so much debt,"

Steve, "That never happened, besides, Superman only holds 15 people per car.... How can 80 people die in one accident?"

Joe, "I dunno, it must have fallen on people watching. You're wrong, Steve, because I SAW IT ON THE NEWS!!!"

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Friday, June 19, 2009 3:01 PM

As much as I point out how stupid people can be, am I the only one left willing to give people more credit?

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Friday, June 19, 2009 3:25 PM

^ Considering how many people are clueless about their own financial situations, I don't know how we could expect them to understand large corporations. Let's face it, these are the people who thought "our share" of the bank bailouts from last year was $400,000 a person (and they would end the recession by spending it all on cheap crap made in China).

Even for many with some understanding of finances, this is new territory with theme parks and automakers declaring. Most people's experience seeing a local company go bankrupt equates to layoffs, closures, and loss of assets.

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Friday, June 19, 2009 5:19 PM

Jeff, yes you are...

I think the point is that Six Flags WILL see a percentage of people simply not making plans to go to their local park beacuse of the bankrupsy news. Even if they do the research and discover that their local SF is still open for business, there are still the people who will think that they'd be "better off planning something else" because with the bankrupsy and all, it's probably unsafe.

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Friday, June 19, 2009 5:53 PM

But isn't that the point of this story? If Six Flags is actively marketing to the local market, it should be obvious enough that the park is open.

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Friday, June 19, 2009 9:10 PM

Yeah, that's what thry are trying to do. But, as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water...

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Friday, June 19, 2009 9:36 PM

Another thing people tend to think when they hear a company is going bankrupt is that they have "bad" products or services. "If GM didn't make such crappy cars, they wouldn't be bankrupt today." How many times have you heard that in the past few months? A lot of people who had bad experiences at Six Flags in the past decade are going to see this bankruptcy as some kind of direct result of their bad time.

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Friday, June 19, 2009 11:14 PM

I guess I just wonder if all of the news of the past year or longer regarding Six Flags' financial woes hasn't deterred people from attending, why would this? It seems to me that hearing that a park (or chain as it were) is having major financial hardship would be the bigger concern for the public in terms of perception of safety and quality product. And despite that being the case for so long, hasn't SF seen an increase in attendance?

The bankruptcy itself is the fix. And I guess I'm thinking most people understand the concept of bankruptcy to be the elimination of debt, not the end of the line. Just think of how many people themselves have been through bankruptcy. ;)

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Saturday, June 20, 2009 7:31 AM

Soggy said:
Maybe 70% of Americans get their news from the TV, but that doesn't mean that 70% of Americans who watch TV will be correctly informed of the whole story about Six Flags and it's bankrupcy. It's obvious (even from past discussions here on CB) that there are serious misconceptions on what bankrupcy (and its various chapters) is/means for a company.

No matter how hard Six Flags tries, there will be the uninformed percentage, however small, who will be doing what Martin Valt reports. Or they will just make stuff up...

Joe, "Dude, Six Flags is bankrupt! They're closing all the parks and tearing down all the rides!

Steve, "No, they are just restructuring their debt, all the parks are open, and they will most likely be better off in the long run."

Joe, "No way, dude, I saw it on the news! Like 80 people died when Superman went too fast and flew off the end of the track. The families all sued and that's why they have so much debt,"

Steve, "That never happened, besides, Superman only holds 15 people per car.... How can 80 people die in one accident?"

Joe, "I dunno, it must have fallen on people watching. You're wrong, Steve, because I SAW IT ON THE NEWS!!!"


Sometimes its actually the media themselves who create such rumors or at least keep the public mis-informed on purpose, though its mainly radio that is more guilty of this than anyone else only because for the longest time radio stations can get away with such stuff. Granted I haven't heard much in the way of amusement park rumors on the radio but I do remember when some of the Norfolk/Virginia Beach radio stations a few of the disc jockies would "make comments" on the air as to why Drachen Fire was closed at BGE. Like the one dj at Z104 I heard saying about a child was thrown from the ride, was killed and the family part of some "secret settlement" was to have the coaster closed. Of course that story is not true at all but that was what I heard back then on Z104-FM out of Norfolk. Now whether or not people back then believed that, who knows but during those pre-internet days and considering how many local dj radio shows at the time weren't taped, they got away with passing such info.

Today on the other hand, if a disc jockey would had said something like that on the air, many people would scan the internet, research the story and if its false..they would brand the disc jockey as a liar. That is why many radio stations today tell their djs to avoid talking about celebrities they may "know" on a personal level, rumors and whatnot instead they should leave it up to news sources such as the AP and Ryan Seacrest to pass that bit of news.

Last edited by Chriscub, Saturday, June 20, 2009 8:38 AM
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Saturday, June 20, 2009 11:11 AM

Oh please, do we have to scape goat "the media" time after time? Seriously, it gets old and paints a ridiculous generalization.

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