Only a Billion Years Left to See The Sea, Tourism Campaign Quips

By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It takes a bold resort town to build an ad campaign around the inevitable fiery end of all life on earth.

Ocean City is that town.

The Eastern Shore tourist mecca has rolled out TV, print and Internet spots that appear to be public-service announcements warning that new research shows the world's oceans will completely evaporate . . . in about a billion years.

That news is delivered by a mock-stern Richard W. Meehan, the Ocean City mayor, who urges visitors to come see the sea while it's still there.

"We're advising citizens to book their Ocean City getaway now, before the ocean evaporates," Meehan says as the image blurs and jumps like an old newsreel.

The ads ran last night and Sunday evening in television markets from Richmond to New York, and the Internet version can be found online at http://www.morefunhere.com. The print version, which screams "The Ocean Is Evaporating!," filled most of a page inside The Washington Post yesterday.

The ads are part of a $1 million ad campaign designed for the Ocean City Department of Tourism by the firm MGH of Owings Mills, Md. Earlier this year, the creative types there were casting about for ideas when one of them read about a study in the Monthly Notices of the British Royal Astronomical Society.

The study described how, over hundreds of millions of years, the heat of the sun will steadily increase and our planet will wind up something like a hot dog that falls through the grill. After about a billion years, the oceans will boil themselves dry, for reasons separate from climate change.

Inside creative director John Patterson's head, a light went on. An enormous, scorching light.

If the oceans boil, he reasoned, that "probably pretty much ruins things" for Ocean City. It was the beginning of a joke.

Meehan said he did feel a little funny making such scary-sounding pronouncements in jest. "Was it kind of Orson-Welles-ish? Yeah," he said. But he said that the ads have generated mostly positive responses.

Sadly, however, Ocean City's problems are likely to begin long before the oceans disappear. One of the study's authors, Klaus-Peter Schröder of the University of Guanajuato in Mexico, said in an e-mail to The Post that the earth's warming will cause the oceans to expand before they boil.

Eventually, he said, that will turn Ocean City into just Ocean.

"That beach in the advert will disappear long before the 1 billion years are up," he said.

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