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Minnesota Tourism Touts State as Refuge

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A brand position developed by the Minnesota Office of Tourism two years ago is proving especially apropos given current events.

The theme, "Exploring Minnesota replenishes what the rest of the world takes away," is front and center in the latest advertising effort from Colle + McVoy in Minneapolis. TV spots that break next week present the state as a peaceful oasis for a much-needed vacation. "We have that antidote to the stresses in your life," said John Edman, director of the Minnesota Office of Tourism, on the theme of the work.

Though the campaign presents Minnesota as a place to get away from the problems of everyday life, the possibility of war in Iraq did not play a role during the planning stages last fall, said John Jarvis, creative director at the agency.

"Minnesota's always been a place where people reconnect," he said. "We didn't go into this with future events in mind."

The TV work shelves last year's pitchman, The Late Late Show host Craig Kilborn, in favor of an acoustic guitar soundtrack and onscreen text that encourages viewers to take advantage of Minnesota's vacation offerings.

One spot shows a girl playing by a lake, shot as if on home video. "Houses have rooms to hide in," reads the text. "Lakes don't." Another ad shows a group of teens enjoying a starry night. "If a picture is worth a thousand words, being there is worth a million," reads the text.

While the tagline "Explore Minnesota" carries over from past efforts, the campaign introduces the line, "How many vacation days do you have left?"

Jarvis said the line was a good way to give the spots a pointed conclusion. "It seemed like a great idea—'You have this allotment of time, don't waste it,' " he said.

The strategy more closely ties the television to the corresponding print effort, Edman said, which last year offered serene photos and headlines encouraging people to relax on their vacations. Executions this year continue the approach. One shows two boys on a dock at night with the headline, "Introduce them to another type of time-out."

The Minnesota Office of Tourism spends approximately $3 million on advertising annually. The campaign will appear in nearby markets that include Wisconsin, Iowa, the Dakotas and southern Canada. "Eighty percent of the people who come here come here by car," Edman said.

Last year's television spots featured Kilborn in a wood-paneled room touting his home state. In one ad, he used figurines of himself and Paul Bunyan playing in a faux lake to show the fun to be had in Minnesota. In another, Kilborn riffed on how few vacation days Americans receive compared with people in other countries.

Kilborn's participation in the campaign was never meant to extend beyond the first year, according to Jarvis. "We needed him to help launch the campaign," he said. In the second year, the agency wanted to reinforce the idea of vacation.

"We continue to find documentation that people are not using all their vacation days," Jarvis said.