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Ordinary? Idaho? Study findings prompt tourism ad campaign

A competitor at the Payette River Games at Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade. Photo by Metta Bracht-Bedell.

Competitor Alec Vorhees at the North Fork Championships near Banks.  Photo by John Webster.

The Idaho Division of Tourism is running its first-ever full campaign of television advertisements in Idaho and out of state.

The campaign is costing the division $1.1 million and will run for about 60 days. The 30-second advertisements, which were designed by Boise company Drake Cooper, run in the Seattle, Spokane, Reno and Salt Lake City areas.

“A third of Idaho travelers are Idahoans and we want them to vacation in their own backyard,” said Diane Norton, the director of the division.

While the state Tourism Division has advertised on public television before, this campaign, which started April 2, is much larger than any previous campaign, Norton said.

The division elected to focus its dollars this year on television advertising after a study last fall found that many people have few impressions of Idaho. The study, carried out by Insights Strategic Marketing and Research, surveyed more than 1,500 leisure travelers in the western U.S. and 310 in western Canada in October.

“The study found that even in comparison with its neighbors Wyoming, Utah and Montana, Idaho had a fairly bland image, “characterized as ordinary, affordable and safe.”
It said that while families do want to visit safe and affordable places, advertising a more exciting side of Idaho would help draw in visitors. Consumers who see ads about Idaho tend to be more positive about the state, the study said.
“The best way to position Idaho to appeal to the Active Family audience is to build on the perceptions of the state as safe and affordable and promote the state’s wholesome, family appeal,” said the study’s authors. “While this can provide a good way to differentiate Idaho from nearby states, it will also be critical to portray Idaho as more fun and exciting than its current image.”
The Tourism Division went through its programs and zeroed in on some priorities, such as TV advertising.
“TV is really important, and we’ve never been able to do it before,” Norton said. “And the prime season for advertising is now, for the summer.”

A 2 percent bed tax on hotels and private campgrounds supports Idaho’s tourism promotion programs. Norton said those revenues are expected to be 13 percent higher this year than last, with especially strong growth in Sun Valley. Backed by a good snow year, Sun Valley saw the number of room nights sold rise 8 percent in January over the year before, 16 percent in February, and 8 percent in March over the year before, said Arlene Schieven, president and chief managing officer of Visit Sun Valley.

The division is also using data providers to find people around the country who are searching for the type of experience offered by an Idaho vacation, and target online advertisements to them. Norton said the division is working with data companies called Sojern, Nsight and Adara.

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