Nebraska Tourism Puts All Its Chips In The Nice People Basket

Last Saturday, I called Comcast and ordered up the Big 10 Network—something I do each September in order to see the Nebraska Cornhuskers take opponents apart on the gridiron. While thusly occupied, I saw something I disliked between plays—new Nebraska Tourism advertising from Bailey Lauerman (generally considered to be the state’s top ad agency).

Strategically, the campaign is a mess. It exposes the idea that Nebraska has few notable places worth visiting, which is WRONG. Then there is another assumption about the people of the state being nice, and therefore worth visiting.

Hey, one out of two ain’t bad.

NE Tourism ad

In the interest of full disclosure, Shawn and I once worked for rival firm, Bozell. Be that as it may, I’d fault any agency for this work. It apologizes where no apology is needed. People and place are forever linked. Why endeavor to undo that fundamental idea, especially with a travel and tourism campaign?

If it were up to me–and clearly it is not up to me–I’d want to find a way to connect the wide open places in Nebraska with the unique personalities of the residents and natives. It’s that combination that draws people to seek new and different experiences in Nebraska.

Off the top of my head, here are some one-of-a-kind experiences the state of Nebraska and its people offer visitors from near and far:

  • “Game Day” in Lincoln
  • Paddling on the “Wild and Scenic” Niobrara River
  • Deer hunting in the Sandhills
  • Sailboarding at Lake McConaughy
  • Dinner in Omaha’s Old Market
  • Migratory bird watching along the North Platte
  • A chance to play one of the top 50 golf courses in the world

I will admit that Nebraskans are in many cases genuinely nice people, and I will allow that residents of big cities might enjoy and benefit from their exposure to Nebraska nice. The insight about nice is real, I’m questioning the building of a tourism campaign on it.

I’m also questioning the execution. If the campaign introduced us to the real people of Nebraska and the places real Nebraskans know and care about, I can see that being a good way to go. This falls flat, because when you actually come out and claim that you are nice, or humble, it can be a sign that you’re anything but. Nice or humble is what you want others to say about you, you don’t want to say it about yourself.



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.