20181018_new_tourism1

An example of the new Nebraska Tourism promotional ads. 

John Ricks says he has been working in his current field since “the time of dirt,” and has overseen more than his share of ad campaigns during that stretch

Yet the nationwide response to the state’s marketing campaign last year was an eye-opening experience for the executive director of the Nebraska Tourism Commission.

The campaign — in response to Nebraska’s low status as a vacation destination the previous year — had the slogan, “Nebraska. Honestly, it’s not for everyone,’ and became an overnight viral sensation. It was aided by Stephen Colbert’s asking, ‘Nebraska, are you OK?’ in response to the campaign shortly after its launch during his monologue on “The Late Show.”

“We were trying to do something very specific and to get people’s attention,” Ricks told the crowd at a Wednesday afternoon session for the second of a three-day Nebraska Tourism Conference in North Platte. “We did it, but some of the things are just crazy. Forbes magazine called it ‘marketing genius.’ Well, those who know me, know I’m not that.”

Web traffic to visitnebraska.com has increased by 195% in the days following the campaign launch, while the request for travel guides increased by 317 percent in that same span.

Ricks added that the Nebraska Tourism Commission focused its media marketing efforts on seven specific sites in the country through television, billboard and magazine advertising.

Of that group, Minneapolis/St. Paul demonstrated the biggest jump in web traffic to visitnebraska.com by an increase of 266%. Denver was second at an increase of 105.66% and Kansas City was third at 46.4%.

The biggest surprise of the campaign might have been the web traffic driven from Chicago, an area where no marketing funds were spent. Hits to the website from that area jumped by 255.83% over the past year and actually had a higher number of clicks on visitnebraska.com than Denver did.

“When looking at (marketing) planning this year, the first thing people are going to say is, ‘Hey, let’s go to Chicago.’ And I say, ‘Do you have (the money)?,” Ricks said. “On the other hand, we can’t ignore it. We have to find a way to do something.

“This was just unpaid (public relations) viral growth. There were some wonderful articles in newspapers and magazines (about the campaign) and it just keeps going and keeps feeding. We’re certainly not going to stop it but we need to find a way to get it into the future.”

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