NEBRASKA CITY — Nebraska’s new tourism marketing campaign concedes that the state is a bit boring, yet hopes to lure travelers by highlighting that you can escape noisy cities in the state and create your own fun.
“Nebraska Nice,” the old tourism motto, is out, replaced by “Nebraska: honestly, it’s not for everyone,” as part of the new campaign that leans a lot on self-deprecating humor. It was developed by a Colorado-based advertising agency, Vladimir Jones.
“Lucky for you, there’s nothing to do here,” is the headline on one print advertisement that displays a smiling band of party-goers, floating down a Sand Hill stream in livestock tanks in the Nebraska-invented sport of “tanking.”
“Famous for our flat boring landscape,” proclaims another ad, which shows a group leaping between rock formations in northwest Nebraska’s Toadstool Park.
Deb Loseke, who chairs the Nebraska Tourism Commission, said it was important to be truthful about “who we are” and “what we are not” after consumer research found that travelers don’t consider Nebraska a “leisure travel destination.” Many, the research showed, think there’s nothing to do in the state.
“We discovered that we can’t offer something to everyone. But to those that we can, this campaign speaks to their sense of adventure and discovering who we as Nebraskans are all about,” said Loseke, who is also executive director of the Columbus/Platte County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The ad campaign squarely addresses preconceived notions about the state by using humor. Nebraskans are “nice,” but the ads needed to go beyond that, tourism officials said.
“What we set out to do is create a brand that is rooted in a core human value that is shared by Nebraskans and potential visitors to the state,” said John Ricks, Nebraska Tourism executive director since 2016.
In 2017, the Tourism Commission hired Brand Lever, a brand consultant specializing in destination marketing, to conduct research. This spring, the campaign was tested in out-of-state markets deemed most likely to deliver visitors.
The self-deprecating humor worked, officials said, and was effective in overcoming stereotypes about the state.
“The brilliance of the campaign is it captures the essence of who we are in Nebraska, while also understanding the type of consumer who is attracted to who we are and speaks right to them,” said David Fudge, the president of the Nebraska Travel Association. He is also executive director of NEBRASKAland Days in North Platte.
Brand Lever, out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was paid nearly $74,000 for its work, which included focus group research in Denver, Kansas City and Des Moines. Vladimir Jones, based in Denver, was selected as the state’s tourism ad firm last year. Its two-year contract to market the state costs $28.6 million.
“Nebraska Nice. Visit Nice” was rolled out as the state’s tourism pitch in 2014 to mixed reviews. Many still believe, incorrectly, that “Nebraska: The Good Life” is the state’s tourism motto. That tagline has been used on highway signs at the state’s borders since the 1960s by the Nebraska Department of Transportation, formerly the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Edgy marketing campaigns in Nebraska have generated buzz in the past. In 2001, the then-struggling Nebraska State Fair rolled out a humorous group of ads including one that boldly stated: “See bands you thought were dead.” While the ads drew criticism — and offense from some bands that performed — they also won a top, statewide advertising award.