North Dakota’s ads aren’t about North Dakota

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North Dakota officials unveil new tourism campaign

State tourism officials … have unveiled the state’s new marketing campaign for the year: Arrive a guest. Leave a Legend.

Tourism Division Director Sara Otte Coleman says the idea is that once visitors cross the border into North Dakota, everything and anything is possible.

"Come to North Dakota," said the voice in my head. "We’re so boring you’ll finally seem cool." Maybe I’m misreading "return a legend."

Try to imagine how the ad would appeal to you. Has your life been suspiciously unspectacular until now? I guess your friends in Minneapolis think you’re just another guy. But you know there’s something else inside you… You just need the right place to let it out… You need someone who hasn’t seen you before.

‘Racy’ N.D. tourism ad pulled after complaints

Which one is the legend?

Which one is the legend?

At first, the phrase "return a legend" might seem like it’s targeted at habitual show-offs looking for more attention. But if you’ve got something to show off you don’t need to go to North Dakota to do it. The phrase is targeted at people hoping to become their real selves; they don’t care whether the people in Fargo remember them, just that the people back in Minneapolis see their new powers. In fact, the word legend is usefully inaccurate because it lets the target audience hide their thoughts.

People took offense at the picture above because they assumed the girls were the tourists, which makes the word "legend" sound like "slut". Either way, the glass window between them gives a subtle hint that this is about recognition, not connection (ie, they can’t hear each other yet). You don’t need to get to know the guys on the other side because they can already see you for who you are.

Do other states use their tourists (rather than their inhabitants) as their brand? New Jersey’s ads use the slogan Discover Another World that’s Closer to Home, South Dakota’s say Great Faces, Great Places, Louisiana’s say Pick your Passion; all of these emphasize the destination rather than the traveler. I don’t think North Dakota’s innovation will go uncopied.

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7 Responses to North Dakota’s ads aren’t about North Dakota

  1. Guy Fox says:

    The women look kind of Indian/native/aboriginal/First Nations, and in a lot of places where that’s the major disadvantaged minority (e.g. Saskatoon, Fargo, Yakutsk), addiction-based prostitution tends to correlate pretty well with that ethnic status. In that light, the ad is pretty shady, because it looks like it’s promoting Fargo as the place for sex tourists with an expense account that will only cover Grand Forks but not Phnom Penh.

    As for places that use tourists for their brand, Monaco has very little else going for it.

    • ExOttoyuhr says:

      Monaco does have the “Ruritania with better food and worse soldiers” gestalt… although with enough millionaires, such things do tend to be lost in the noise.

    • sunshinefiasco says:

      To me, the sex tourism thing makes almost no sense, because if you’re interested in sexually exploiting low-income native girls who may have drug problems, you can absolutely do that at home in Minnesota (in the Twin Cities or elsewhere), South Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana, Wyoming, Iowa… who else is this targeting? Also, those girls are not dressed like hookers/ are pretty thick if we’re casting native-meth-head hookers for an ad. Those ladies are not even dressed like waitresses on a night out. That’s department store clothing (JcPenny’s, not Marshalls), and thems’ is professional ladies who work in offices and such.

      I think the idea might be that if you’re a boring white man with a collared shirt, there are probably people in North Dakota ready to party that will think you are interesting and cultured as hell. Look at blondie’s teal shirt outside the suit jacket– clearly a city boy. You could meet a nice North Dakotan girl and whisk her back to Anoka, where she will raise the pudgy children of your shared dreams. Or maybe just meet a nice girl and settle in town with a dealership, where the whole town will laugh and laugh at your jokes, and ooh and ahh at your tales of living near civilian black people. The motto may as well be North Dakota: You’re a Big Deal, You Just Don’t Know it Yet.

      The thing is, if that’s what they’re selling, it’s true– for both genders, but the state of North Dakota is probably not willing to acquiesce that female sexuality is a thing yet.

  2. DGS says:

    It’s about coming for the oil money. And returning a big shot. Notice how these guys are dressed- typical blue collar guy trying to dress it up.

    And I love that even in the glamoured version of ads the North Dakota women are still fat.

  3. RatB says:

    I assumed that everyone in the picture was a tourist. Locals that age would have kids and houses and meth habits that would keep them from acting like… well, tourists.

    If you’re selling a narcissist’s “be the real me” getaway, shouldn’t everyone be waaaay hotter? I feel like the advertising agency co-opted its HR department for models.

    I will say that putting the two groups on opposite sides of a pane of glass does serve the above goal. It’s like “I can’t hear them so they could be saying anything” which means “they’re saying exactly what I want to hear.” Communication is an unfortunate byproduct of creating the appearance of communication.

    • johnnycoconut says:

      I think it’s saying (regarding physical appearances), “The real you is attractive, in a regular kinda way,” which is actually not a bad message.