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ND Tourism Dept. Fail: New "Legendary" Ad Campaign PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chet   
Thursday, 12 January 2012 22:03

[Updated X2 in red.]

Making the rounds right now on the interwebs is the new advertising campaign from the North Dakota Tourism Department.  There's lots to the story, but here's what you need to known for now: The ND Tourism folks rolled out their new "Arrive a Guest; Leave a Legend" ad campaign this week. They posted all their new "Legendary" graphics/posters on their Facebook page on Monday. A couple of the ads have drawn some attention.  One ad, in particular, has gotten particularly harsh criticism.  Here's that ad.


A reader/commenter has pointed out that the ad, according to the Fargo Forum story about this today, "was produced by Odney Advertising of Bismarck, Fargo and Minot."  Odney is owned by John Hoeven's high school buddy, Pat Finken. Odney does much of the political public relations work for Republican candidates in North Dakota while simultaneously raking in over $9 million in tax dollars per bienneum from the State of North Dakota.  (The old post suggests it was closer to $6 million, but I ran a new search on OMB's website today, and it's over $9 million).  Here's another story about Odney's North Dakota gravy train.

So the Tourism folks posted this photo in a Facebook photo album where viewers/readers could post comments. The ad then got enough "inappropriate" comments that the photo (and all comments about it) was removed from the photo album by the Tourism folks.  Some examples of comments people then posted under the photo album included this:

Drinks, dinner, decisions... regrets?
Arrive a Guest. 
Leave a Victim.


It's still better than "Wisconsin: Hide a body, nobody will find it, they're too drunk"


What can the "intended message" of the ad be?? A picture speaks a thousand words. Scrap the ad entirely and cut your losses. "Decisions" indeed.


that dude looks sweaty


As a former ND resident for 25 years, I think the ads are pretty terrible. Like, I show them to people and they laugh. Half of the ad copy makes it seem like you need to be on acid to have the imagination necessary to not be bored out of your mind (which may actually be true). Plus, one of the ads has a pretty obvious spelling error (momento?).

I don't think the removed ad was bad because of it's message. It isn't a shocker that men like to meet women. There isn't anything wrong with that. But, the ad was bad because it comes off as trying so hard to be cool but failing so miserably. It would be like what my 60 year old mother would come up with if you asked her to come up with trendy ad copy that the 'kids' would like. The only thing missing is some lingo from the wrong decade.

Don't try and make North Dakota out to be 'cool'. Trust me, North Dakota is not cool or trendy. Nobody goes to North Dakota to find cool or trendy. Play to your strengths, few as they might be.

An example of terrible ad copy:

They aren't mile markers,
they're new chapters.

What image does this conjure up in someone's head? Long stretches of road where the only thing keeping you from falling asleep are the mile markers. Unless you're on acid, then its some sort of storybook adventure?

Montana has a whole lot of nothing too, but what have they done with it? Big Sky. Now that produces a great mental image. North Dakota: Lots of Mile Markers isn't quite as effective.


After looking through the other ads, I'm also suggesting you rethink the "horse mementos on my cowboy boots" bit. As an Upper Midwest native living in NYC, I have to say that just reinforces the hick stereotype peeps here have of the region.


Yeah.  Not a big hit. 

Here's what BoingBoing had to say about the ad:

We all probably had at least one friend who attempted to reinvent themselves after high-school in a way that was so not them that it just made you feel pity. You know what I'm talking about. Like the goody-goody who tried so hard to change their squeaky clean reputation, but would clearly never be a badass cool kid, no matter how many times they told you that they got "sooooo drunk" last weekend.

That's what this ad reminds me of.

BoingBoing ("North Dakota tries to be cool, fails")

Okay, so there's a little bit of "I'm cooler than you" in some of this criticism. But it also comes with a healthy dose of hard-to-swallow truth.

Personally, my main criticism of the ad is this: The ad's creator thinks something in this photo should trigger something in the audience that makes them think/feel "Someone's about to become a legend here."  What about this picture would give people that sensation?  Do you earn "legend" status by drinking a beer in the window of a bar while dressed like a JC Penney catalog model, looking at passers-by (or these passers by)? Is it something the young ladies are doing that will lead them to "legend" status? What "Decisions" are these folks making in this picture that will lead them to "legend" status? What? There's some unspoken message in the photo that the creators want us to feel.  What is it? 

I could tell you what I think the unspoken message is, but it would just be my interpretation. (And it's not necessarily a good "pro-ND-tourism" message, by the way. Hint: the photo reminds me of the worst "pick-up line" I ever heard someone use in a bar when I was in college.  And, no, I won't repeat it here.) You might have your own perspective, and it might be fine. But here's the important question: What did the ad's creator have in mind?  What did THEY think WE were going to see? What did they want us to see?

If you read through all the comments under the BoingBoing story, you'll also -- already -- find some parodies.  Like this one:


That's right, Mr. "D+ in 8th grade geography;" Mt. Rushmore is in North Dakota. And this is an Applebees.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and call this particular ad campaign a monumental marketing FAIL.

Oh.  And then there's this one, too...


"Horse momentos?!?"  Really?  What is a "horse momento"?

Got spellcheck?  

Look up the word "momentos".   

This thing had to have been reviewed and approved by several people at the Tourism Department. Before that it had to have been approved by everybody at some ad agency Pat Finken and everybody else at Odney Advertising, considering they're getting $4.5 million a year from the state to do this kind of stuff.  And nobody bothered to pull up a spelling checker?  The word "momentos" didn't cause anybody to raise an eyebrow? Really? 

I want to know how much tax money went to pay for these ridiculous, horribly thrown-together ads.  

In fact...  I'll try to get back to you with that.

And here's a question...  and I don't mean to be snarky... How many non-residents come to North Dakota to go on a trail ride each year? A couple hundred? And why? Don't they have trail rides in other states?  So you live in New York City and you're making your vacation plans and suddenly these words come out of your mouth: "Hey!  I want to go on a trail ride!  How about North Dakota?!?"  Is that really something that happens?

I don't think so.

Comments (10)add comment

What the Heck said:

I'm ashamed.
I wonder if the thought process went something like this...

ND needs to be cool and hip like Las Vegas.
Yeah, like What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas. Darn, that's already taken. Well we all know that sex sells. Let's sell sex.

January 13, 2012
Votes: +1

big jake said:

I don't know if these fools are just pointy heads and think that they are sophisticated or just dumb. In any event, this is an incredible waste of money and gives us an even worse image than before.

Don't get me wrong. I love North Dakota. We have been here since 1881. If we want to be a tourist mecca, we need a major contractor to move the Black Hills up here. If that prove just to tough, the Badlands are great----fantastic, but they can't compete with places like the Hills or Yellowstone or Glacier. They don't need to. We have a really great variety of very interesting places. Fort Abraham Lincoln, Lewis and Clark, fantastic fishing, and the list goes on. But beyond a few days and to have a gigantic tourism industry is a pipe dream.

Beyond that, a careful analysis of tourism would prove that all of those dollars come from earnings----tourism is a service industry and creates nothing. Its success is determined by the ability of the public to pay for it. It is impossible to build a functioning long term economy on tourism.

With this latest example of foolishness, the tourism department needs to be reigned in. If this is the best that they can do, we need new personel in that department.
January 13, 2012
Votes: +2

Zyvix said:

From the online Forum article.

The ad was produced by Odney Advertising of Bismarck, Fargo and Minot.

That reminded me of this earlier blog post here. http://www.northdecoder.com/La...ising.html

Sure doesn't look like we are getting our money's worth.
January 13, 2012
Votes: +1

nimrod said:

liberal scum
Thank goodness for the executive leadership of Gov. Dalrymple.

January 13, 2012
Votes: +0

nimrod said:

I thought the horse "momentoes" was a parody. Oops.
January 13, 2012
Votes: +0

Chet said:

North Dakota Tourism responds
The ND Tourism Department has responded to the criticism of this poorly done ad campaign. Their position seems to be that there is nothing wrong with the ads they threw together and if you are critical of the ads, you are being mean to the nice models, there's something wrong with YOU and you must hate North Dakota.

Great strategy.

(Click here to read their "blame-it-on-everyone-else" response.)
January 13, 2012
Votes: +1

big jake said:

I just read the Dept. of Tourism response. Are these people this stupid?

This is not about the models. It is about the stupid image that the Dept is trying to create. Who in their right mind would think that this about the models. Beam me up Scotty.
January 13, 2012
Votes: +1

Chet said:

A crazy thought...
I just had the most insane idea. How about the state of North Dakota stop spending $4.5 million per year (or, more likely, much more) on a single public relations firm in a sketchy business relationship that stinks to high heaven and, instead, simply hire five or ten public relations professionals to work under -- I don't know -- maybe the Department of Commerce, and have them do all the public relations work for all of state government.

Humor me for a second here because I'm just kind of "thinking out loud."

Say you pay each of these government advertising professionals $100,000 per year, average. Maybe you need to hire a receptionist, office manager and a few secretaries, paying them an average of $75k (including benefits, etc.). They'd need some office space, fancy computers, printers, software, etc. But I bet you could do it for under $2 million per year. ($100k X 10; $75k X 5; plus $625k in office equipment, rent, training, travel, misc. expenses, etc.)

(Yes; I do recognize that I've been a little generous with the salary levels here. I'm doing that to make a point. The point is: We could probably do it much cheaper than this.)

Total cost per year = $2 million. There. I just saved the state of North Dakota $2.5 million per year. Better still; we're not subsidizing partisan political campaigns by funneling millions of tax dollars to Odney Advertising.

Let's even be extravagant and say we hire a few more ad professionals, graphics designers, web experts. Let's go crazy and add another $1 million to the budget. I've eliminated the Department of Finken and still saved the state $1.5 million per year or $3 million per biennium.

What's crazy is that I (a) reduced corruption in government (or the appearance of corruption); (b) shrunk the cost of government; and (c) grew government.


January 14, 2012
Votes: +4

Chet said:

Thou dost protesteth too much
I'm loving the ongoing defensiveness of some people to the criticism of some of these ads. There's a guy named Jason Jacobson whose Facebook rant is getting a lot of attention. And there's the follow-up in the Fargo Forum that's also worth a read.

Or you can just let me summarize them for you: "If you are critical of these North Dakota Tourism ads, you must hate North Dakota. Or you're mean. Because these ads are THE BEST ADS EVER!!!"

I'd suggest there's another possibility. Maybe the ads just aren't very good, at all. Maybe a couple of them are awful. The people in the ads might be really nice people (I don't know), but maybe the ads are poorly done. Maybe some of the criticism is legit.

Just a thought.
January 15, 2012
Votes: +1

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