Rivers Run Through It

Chicago Sun Times advertising writer, Lewis Lazare, likes him some Michigan.

“Pure Michigan” is a pure delight. We’re talking, of course, about the exquisite ongoing ad campaign developed by McCann Erickson/Detroit to promote tourism in Michigan.
What makes this “Pure Michigan” effort stand apart — way apart — is the stunning voice-over copy. Listening to the rhythmic waves of writing made us aware just how tin-eared so many so-called professional advertising creatives are nowadays. Most are so busy trying to be cute and, uh, funny that they have forgotten how powerful simple prose can be in the hands of someone who knows how to write with feeling and precision.

So-called? Either you work in the profession, or you don’t. Someone who cares deeply about words, might want to pay closer attention to his own.
Speaking of things to do in Michigan, here’s something that doesn’t appear in the campaign.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. These spots are okay.
    If someone is trying to write an emotional voiceover, i want to palpably feel the emotion.
    Compare the above Michigan spot to the “Diminishing Light” spot for Fort Myers, Florida here-
    I am about 20 years younger than the apparent target of this ad, but it still makes a huge impact on me.

  2. It’s interesting that Fort Myers and Sanibel chose a Milwaukee agency to create these spots. Upper Midwesterners know better than most the romance of a Florida vacation.

  3. Of course, Pure Michigan is a blatant ripoff of the long-running campaign, but whatever. Its easier to get to Michigan anyway.

  4. Neither campaign is the kind of work that gets the folks with the outre eyeglasses especially excited but both are light years better than most work in the genre. That said, I find the Michigan spots more universal in the emotions they evoke and less forced than the Diminishing Light idea. Then again, I spent eight years living in southwest Michigan and I know that despite the state’s horribly crap economy and its manufacturing detritus, most of The Mitt is extraordinary.

  5. Yo Dean! Welcome back.

  6. “water. it can flood our basements.”

  7. Thanks, David. I’m not really in the ad business anymore except for some work I do for my good friends at Black Lab Five. But I still enjoy catching up with Ad Pulp. Keep up the good work.

  8. Carl LaFong says:

    Any idea who read the voiceover for the Michigan commercial? He sounds vaguely like Hal Riney.

  9. Tim Allen, I believe.

  10. I’m from Ontario, and these advertisements drive me nuts. The only good thing about Michigan, and what it can offer us that we can’t have here is cheaper shopping, and checking out the urban ghettos of Flint, and Detroit.
    I love how before they used to state that Michigan had more freshwater coastline than anywhere else in the world, but yet, somehow, that got changed to any other state in the country.
    Nice voice-over, i’ll give you that, but advertising something in Ontario about natural parks, beauty, water, is something we don’t need to go far to enjoy, without waiting hours at the border.
    Just an attempt to get some tourism dollars in that weak weak economy.

  11. It’s OK, but hardly extraordinary. Very Riney-wannabe. Lazare’s gushing is likely the result of McCann sending him a box of donuts and a case of Detroit Beer.

  12. Carl LaFong says:

    Thanks, kmf. I knew that voice sounded familiar.

  13. The ads remind me of Redford’s voiceover in “A River Runs Through It” – and every time I hear one I stop. I’m in the tourism industry and a former advertising copywriter and I think the campaign is effective.
    Disclosure: I am a Michigan native.

  14. Blatant Hal Riney rip-off. The writing, the read, the music, the look! I hear the first few notes and you know it’s a rip!

  15. Hank Silvers says:

    I’m not in the advertising business, but “Pure Michigan” reminded me of “Morning In America” and the Saturn ads, so I Googled “Pure Michigan” and “Hal Riney” and that led me here.
    Tim Allen doing the voiceover? That I didn’t know…