Pure Michigan pays dividends

September 28, 2009
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Perhaps, acknowledged Travel Michigan’s David M. Lorenz, the best indicator of the success of the Pure Michigan state tourism advertising campaign is the parodies that have popped up on YouTube.

Created by the suburban Detroit office of advertising firm McCann Erickson, Pure Michigan’s stunning photography and videography and evocative scripts, read by actor and Michigan native Tim Allen, have picked up a string of national awards and recognitions.

Funded by the state at $30 million for 2009, the campaign, which drives people to the Michigan.org Web site, went national over the summer with a $10 million media buy on cable networks. To obtain that funding, the state securitized some of the proceeds of the tobacco lawsuit settlement, Lorenz said

The result has meant $1.1 billion for the state economy, he said.

“For every dollar we’ve spent on the Pure Michigan campaign, we’ve been able to bring back $2.86 to the state treasury,” Lorenz said. “That’s a return that anybody would be OK with. This campaign is doing what we hoped it would do. It’s helping to build and retain jobs in the state of Michigan at a time when we most need it. Perhaps even more important, it’s helping to inject a sense of pride.”

On the same day last week that Lorenz spoke to the advertising group AAF West Michigan, the tourism industry was lobbying in Lansing in an effort to stay the ax on the Pure Michigan budget.

While legislators were considering chopping back on Travel Michigan advertising to 2005 levels of less than $6 million, the travel industry was proposing the “Missouri modified plan” — a temporary 2 percent tax on taxi rides and car rentals and capturing part of the 6 percent state sales tax revenues related to tourism, including taxes on hotel rooms.

Grand Valley State University Assistant Professor Paul Stansbie, chair of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, said cutting off Pure Michigan funding now would bring its momentum to a screeching halt.

“The return on investment is almost $3 to $1,” Stansbie said. “That been the crux of the campaign. It more than pays for itself.”

While the recession has depressed job hunting in tourism, Stansbie said he thinks the campaign is “in our vested interest. The more people visit Michigan, the more opportunities there are for graduates of our program.”

Stansbie said Pure Michigan also helps to differentiate the rest of the state from “the halo effect” of Detroit’s negative reputation around the country.

“We wanted to be as popular, as ubiquitous, as this,” Lorenz told the AAF West Michigan audience as he revealed the infamous and much copied “I (heart) New York” campaign. “It is one of the most successful brands in the country. The great test of a brand is when people are adopting it for themselves.”

Lorenz said when Travel Michigan issued a request for proposals from advertising agencies to replace its previous “True North” campaign, it was looking for an approach that branded Michigan as “majestic, mythic, magical.” McCann Erickson’s pitch hit the mark, he said.

The funding infusion allowed Travel Michigan to expand advertising in additional Midwest markets, as well as the national campaign, and covered specialized campaigns for hunting and fishing and winter sports.

“We’re happy for it, but it’s not like we’re funded more than anybody else in the country,” he added.

Travel Michigan has hosted four promotional tours of about 30 travel writers each, organized by Florida firm Geiger & Associates, which specializes in travel media marketing, Lorenz said.

He said a deal on advertising in the mecca of electronic billboards in America — New York City’s Times Square — led to the Pure Michigan campaign serving as a backdrop to a two-minute segment on “The Dave Letterman Show.”

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