On Monday, staffers at Clift, a luxury Union Square hotel that bills itself as a "wonderland for the jetset" with suites costing up to $1,600 a night, were sporting dark T-shirts that read in ever-so-subtle black-on-black lettering: "F*#k the Recession."
It's part of a new ad campaign by Clift's parent company, New York–based Morgans Hotel Group, to urge its moneyed guests to defy the recession by, well, dropping huge amounts of cash at its properties. It's roughly the equivalent of General Motors urging folks sick of all that depressing talk about global warming to buy a Hummer in protest.
The T-shirts are most likely the only F-bombs we'll be seeing here in San Francisco. The company hired guerrilla marketers in New York, Los Angeles, and London to paste up posters with slogans like "Hey, Downturn, Up Yours!" and project a promotional video on building walls. Yet marketing reps say the modest $150,000 budget for the "FTR" campaign means San Francisco won't be included for now.
Not all have embraced the campaign. The marketing company Morgans hired in New York to hang up the posters objected to the ones with the F-word, saying they didn't want to risk being ticketed by the cops. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times rejected an ad featuring a profane letter to the recession telling him (apparently the recession is masculine) he's not welcome at any of the company's hotels, says Morgans' chief marketing officer, Scott Williams. The letter concludes by advising "Mr. Recession" to "fuck off." The Times suggested using "screw" instead, but Williams said he wouldn't compromise the message: "That's kind of the point, isn't it?"
Morgans' purported "recess from the recession" is wishful thinking; if anything, the recession is fucking them, with a stock price plummeting to $2.60 a share in November from $25.75 in July 2007. A guy answering the phone at Clift who wouldn't give his name said things have been rough at Morgans' San Francisco location: "There's a lot of fear in the air around here, and they're cutting back a lot in the hotel. Hours have been shaved in all departments."
Morgans will also attempt to cash in on Day Without a Gay on Dec. 10, a nationwide protest of ballot initiatives that banned gay marriage. Organizers are urging LGBT folks to "call in gay" to work and volunteer for a charity instead. Sean Hetherington, the West Hollywood–based organizer of the gay day, says the self-proclaimed gay-friendly Morgans has agreed to let its gay employees take a day off for volunteering. Yet Morgans execs aren't entirely motivated by altruism. Williams says there's no better way to measure the gay community's economic impact than to buy a "gay recess" from the Prop. 8 package.