An ad in Condé Nast Traveler magazine depicts a popular Oahu tourist attraction as dangerous. The "anonymous" beach is Hanauma Bay, voted one of the Star-Bulletin's "Seven Wonders."
Tourism officials are steamed that an insurance ad uses Hanauma Bay to illustrate ocean perils
Hanauma Bay appears to be one of the most dangerous beaches on the planet, complete with approaching hurricanes, broken beer bottles, riptides and "unhappy crabs," according to a strange double-page photo-advertisement that's running in Condé Nast Traveler magazine.
The big, colorful ad by global insurance giant AIG is entitled "You Never Know What's Out There" and shows a panoramic view of Hanauma Bay with yellow danger signs and exclamation points. Each alarming sign is accompanied by specific dangers: riptide, razor-sharp coral, jellyfish, rusty bottle cap, sun poisoning, lost wallet, hurricane approaching and the curious "unhappy crabs."
Of course, the most ironic thing is that an insurance company would pick probably one of the safest beaches in the world on which to base its "dangerous beach" campaign. You can't even get into the water at Hanauma Bay without sitting through a safety and environmental appreciation video. And although Hanauma Bay is nothing more than a big bathtub with a beautiful reef, you'd think from the AIG ad that it's more like Omaha Beach on D-Day.
Particularly funny is the warning sign in the calm middle of the bay, devoid of any wave action, that says, "Dislocated Finger Boogie Boarding." That would be quite a trick.
Hawaii-based travel writer Bob Bone, whose pieces often run in this paper, alerted me to the unintentionally funny ad.
"I can just see what happened," he said. "Someone at an advertising agency said, 'We need a beach.' And a beach is a beach is a beach."
Except in this case, the ad agency managed to find, in some computer photo library, one of the most recognizable Hawaii images after Diamond Head.
Considering the millions of visitors who go to Hanauma Bay yearly, and the vast international circulation of Condé Nast, it was only a matter of time before news of the beach blunder reached the islands.
For Robin Campaniano, president and CEO of AIG Hawaii, it was a call from the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
"I was told about the ad by the tourism authority, who didn't think that it was very funny," he said. Campaniano called AIG headquarters on the mainland to tell them "we are very hurt" by the ad and was told (as Bob Bone predicted) that the beach photo was simply a generic "Caribbean" beach pulled from a photo library and labeled that way.
"That ticked us off," Campaniano said. He told AIG headquarters that Hanauma Bay was one of the most famous and recognizable beaches in the world and asked that it be taken out of the ad campaign. He was told that future magazine ads will not feature what seems to be "THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS BEACH!"
Campaniano has tried to keep a sense of humor about the beach sandstorm, even though tourism honchos still aren't laughing.
The ad is funny, though, in a completely unintended sense. I mean, can you get sun poisoning at Hanauma Bay? Will a riptide pull you off to Molokai? How long has that huge hurricane-looking cloud been lingering off the south point? And, most important, why are Hanauma Bay's crabs unhappy?
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