State takes folksy approach in new tourism ad campaign

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Lake Superior obviously wasn’t named by Minnesotans. They would have called it “Lake Pretty Good” or “Lake Pretty Special,” one of the state’s new television ads suggests.
The folksy humor that pokes fun at the reserved manner of many state residents is central to the voice-over ads with childlike drawings inviting visitors to explore Minnesota and “take home a story.”
Whether promoting the metropolitan area for its cultural attractions, lakes and shopping; the central lakes area for its fishing and golfing; the state’s American Indian heritage; or the Boundary Waters for canoeing, the ads all conclude: “A Minnesota vacation is pretty darn nice.”
The package, laid out for the news media at a briefing Tuesday, brings to mind the long-running Motel 6 ads that reassure visitors, “We’ll leave the light on for you.”
Minnesota’s campaign is low-budget. The state’s chief competitors for tourists’ money — Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Missouri — spend at least twice what Minnesota does on tourism advertising. To compete, state tourism officials knew the ads would have to be distinctive.
“We think it positions us quite differently from anyone else,” said Steve Markuson, director of tourism.
“We’re really selling at the emotional level. It’s not like going out and buying an automobile or a box of Cheerios. We’re selling dreams and we’re selling expectations,” Markuson said.
Companion print ads, which look like handwritten postcards, also give a lighthearted look at the vacation experience.
One ad with a man speed-paddling a canoe says, “Canoeing in the BWCA, we learned the J-stroke, C-stroke, and the THAT MOOSE IS COMIN’ THIS WAY!!! STROKE.”
Another reads, “This trip I learned how to properly handle a northern, fish with a slip bobber, and NOT to stand up in a canoe to get a lure out of a tree.”
The total media value of the new campaign, which also includes similar ads in regional editions of more than two dozen magazines — including Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies Home Journal, Travel & Leisure and Reader’s Digest — is estimated at just over $1.3 million of the state’s $1.8 million travel advertising budget.
In contrast, Illinois has a travel advertising budget of $8.3 million; Michigan $6.6 million; Missouri $6.3 million and Wisconsin $4.6 million.
The new campaign is targeted at the North Central states — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin — which provide 86 percent of Minnesota’s tourists.
Tourism has an annual economic impact of $9.1 billion in Minnesota, supporting 170,300 jobs with an annual payroll of $3.7 million, Markuson said.