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Tourism Campaigns Travel Different Paths
By: Jeff Louis
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Like every major city, Chicagoans tend to see a lot of tourism-based advertising; however, it feels as if every state is scrambling for tourism dollars. I’m well aware of the reasons behind tourism campaigns and their impact on local economies, but it feels as the nation still is locked in a cost-conscious mode. Of the various campaigns running in Chicago, the most prolific and well-known is the "Pure Michigan" (Michigan.org) tourism effort.

To many, Michigan means falling buildings, rising crime, and a nonexistent economy, which is quite true. Three years ago, the only thing I knew about the state came from drives to somewhere else; Michigan was dead to me. I didn’t want to go there, and, thankfully, I had no reason that would force me.

However, another angle exists for Michigan, and this is the side the state has used to replace the aforementioned negative perceptions. The efforts thus far have paid off and replaced any negative imagery with water and wildlife, making it "Pure Michigan."

When the spots run, I always think of Robert Redford's narration during "A River Runs Through It." (I'm not sure why; Tim Allen narrates "Pure Michigan.")

An unintended -- but welcome -- side effect of the campaign: It has boosted morale among residents. Michigan.org is the most visited state tourism site.

Other states are running tourism campaigns to change public perception. Florida is still known for beaches and good weather (and old people), but recent spots inform vacationers,“It’s OK. We've got that oil-thing covered, and the beaches are good. Come on down.”

California launched a tourist effort, "California: Find Yourself Here.” Using double meanings, celebrities, scenery, and sarcasm, Californians remind viewers life is full of board meetings, everything’s a big production, and pencil-pushers are abundant in supply.

New Jersey is a state that begs for a new image. The Garden State's public image, according to a recent Gannett survey, “is a joke." It might link to reality programming that features intelligent, high-class people who have their own "gang names." Yes, I'm alluding to those with names like; "JWoww," Snooki," "Kim-G," and "Kim D," who claimed the spotlight thanks to reality TV shows "Jersey Shore" and "Real Housewives of New Jersey."

Is there anyone not living in, or from, New Jersey who wants to go there? No? I didn't think so.

Guess what? The Gannett poll indicates most wouldn't want to go there, either. Like "The Real World," "Jersey Shore" cast members don't live on the Jersey Shore. In fact, only two live in New Jersey; the remaining six reside in and around New York City. Snooki, for example, resides in Marlboro, N.Y., a three-hour drive from Seaside Heights, where the show is filmed.   

Thus, it seems that even the cast of "Jersey Shore" avoids New Jersey.

Wait! It gets better. A New Jersey car insurance executive, tired of the negative labels due to the reality shows, recently began a grassroots crusade to save his beloved state. Online videos and social media efforts revolve around some dude in a Gumby-like outfit asking residents to explain to the nation why “Jersey Doesn’t Stink.” 

If I was New Jersey neutral (I wasn't), I sure wouldn't be neutral now. Is this a joke?  A campaign titled, "Jersey Doesn't Stink" begs for ridicule. The questions he asks alone are enough to get me going. 

  • “Be honest. Did Jersey stink because of Snooki, or was it the trash from NYC?"
  • “Can you prove that Jersey doesn't stink?"
  • "Did the smell come before, or after, the TV shows?"

New Jersey should've stayed with their strengths and run a campaign that aligned with public perception. Perhaps this one: "Jersey's a Joke. So What?" 

Thankfully far from the smell, there's "Pure Michigan." While some people feel state-funded advertising wastes tax dollars, a Michigan-commissioned study shows that "Pure Michigan" drew an additional 681,000 visitors to Michigan; these visitors spent $250 million and added $17.5 million in taxes, a return of $2.23 for each advertising dollar invested.   

No wasted tax dollars that I can see.  


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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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