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Busch Gardens advertising pitch backfires


© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 2, 2001

Busch Gardens can't catch good publicity these days even when it pays for it.

Consider Tuesday, when WTSP-Ch. 10 aired a story during its 11 p.m. newscast about Busch Gardens temporarily closing its much-hyped, $20-million Rhino Rally attraction after two people were injured in an accident.

Moments after the story aired, WTSP cut to a commercial for the new Busch attraction with the rather inappropriate tagline: "Will you finish the rally or will the rally finish you?"

Busch spokesman Gerard Hoeppner said the theme park began contacting TV stations Tuesday night, telling them to replace the Rhino Rally spot with another commercial touting Busch Gardens or its sister park, Adventure Island.

Some stations didn't get the message quickly enough. "I wish it were as easy as us hitting a button, but we have a lot of people we have to rely on," Hoeppner said.

Busch says it has been airing the Rhino commercials in key markets throughout Florida (though it won't say how much it's spending). But, for now, the rally's ad campaign has the same status as the ride: shelved until further notice.

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