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State’s Misguided Tourism Advertising

I’ve taken shots at New Mexico’s latest advertising efforts to promote the state tourism recently, and now it looks like I’m not alone. Some of the largest convention and visitor bureau folks are also unhappy with the approach we’ve taken:

“New Mexico has a lot to offer — we don’t need to bring our standards down,” said Ken Mompellier, head of the convention and visitors bureau in Las Cruces, the state’s fast-growing, second-largest city, which has refused to use the alien ads to bolster its own local tourism pitches, as it normally would.

“My first question would be: What does this campaign show of the things that we are known for?” Mompellier asked. “I look at this campaign and I don’t see the fit. And the things I’m hearing from people, some of it is very negative.”

Dale Lockett, president of the state’s largest convention and visitors bureau in Albuquerque, addressed the issue at a statewide conference last month.

At a keynote luncheon, Lockett told the creators of the ads, Santa Monica, Calif.-based M&C; Saatchi, that their handiwork, while innovative, appeals to the wrong audience. Why, Lockett wondered, was the state targeting its centerpiece ad campaign to a younger crowd at the precise moment when the bulk of baby boomers nationwide are reaching the age when they have time and money to travel?

I couldn’t agree more with these two guys. Moreover, aside from the problems with the creative, the even bigger problem seems to me to be the media planning strategy.

Defending the oddity of the campaign, McCall noted that New Mexico has unique challenges in competing in the hyper-competitive tourism market. New Mexico’s main rivals — Arizona, in addition to Utah and Colorado — all have their own charms and significantly more funding from their state legislatures; the ad budgets of each of those states ranks in the top 10 nationally while New Mexico’s budget ($2.9 million this fiscal year) lingers in the lower third.

Well, if your budget lingers in the lower third, then you better plan on spending those dollars in places where you are going to get more bang for your buck. Places where the competition, in this case other states, are not dominating. Places like pay per click and online content match advertising.

Go ahead and Google “Southwest Vacation” or “Mountain Vacation.” You would think that a sponsored ad touting the state would show up, wouldn’t you? Well, it doesn’t, and that’s just ridiculous. Especially, when you consider that the state’s whole TV campaign is trying to drive people to visit the tourism department’s website.

Now, I know a thing or two about what I’m talking about (it has to do with how I actually spend my days). In fact, I’d be willing to bet that if the state gave me only 10% of their current tourism budget, I could drive 10 times the amount of traffic to their website that the current campaign is bringing. I’d even be willing to offer a 100% moneyback guarantee if I was not able to deliver.

Ask M&C; Saatchi if they’re willing to offer a moneyback guarantee on their campaign.