North Dakota Tourism Department Doesn’t Know How To Use Spell Check

A recent ad in the “North Dakota is Legendary” campaign from the North Dakota Tourism Department sparked a bit of controversy when it was mocked and ridiculed on the internet for making most people, including North Dakotan themselves, cringe in embarrassment.

I was looking through some of the other ads in the campaign, and I came across this one:

First of all, unless “horse momento” is some equestrian term I’m not familiar with, I’m pretty sure what they meant to write was memento, which is a noun meaning “keepsake” or “reminder of the past.”

Second, read the whole line from the ad:

“Your new boots – spotted on a trail ride, at the rodeo and with horse momentos on the side”

I’m trying to draw some sort of coherent meaning from that, but I’m at a loss. Were they trying to extol the virtues of North Dakota in the form of haiku? Was somebody drunk when they wrote that? Are we just assuming that people aren’t reading about this stuff?

According to the Grand Forks Herald, these print ads cost about $200,000 to produce. Clearly, the taxpayers aren’t getting their money’s worth.

Update: The ND Tourism Department has responded to the controversy over these ads with a blog post (mentioning the first controversial ad and not the second). They’re defending the ad campaign, saying they’ve got the research to prove that it works.

They also try to deflect a lot of the criticism by casing the critics as little more than bullies making mean-spirited comments about the ad and the state. While there’s certainly been some of that in the criticism, it’s hard to imagine the sort of reaction there’s been to these ads without the criticism having some basis in truth.

These ads are intended to create a positive image for the State of North Dakota. So far, they’ve created a very negative image. There’s no way to get around that failure.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Dakotacyr

    Another smooth move by the republican Odney advertising agency who did these ads.

    • The Whistler

      I heard that they are a personal favorite of Senator Hoeven…..

      • Dakotacyr

        Indeed and the entire ND republican party, I hear.

        • Dakotacyr

          Someone should check the state records to see how much money they have gotten over the years.

  • man

    “horse momento”?  Is that supposed to mean that you have horse poo on your boots?  Is that supposed to be funny?

    • ec99

      Yes to both question.  It’s reflective of the sense of humor of the dolts hired to do the PR.

      • Camsaure

        Yup, I think they are full of “bull mementos”.

  • Demosthenes

    Ha! Someone better be going home early today.

    Also, I think if you italicize words your allowed to invent them, as far as I can remember from my documentation classes. Even more so is Momento just another way to spell it?!? I think so.

    Either way the sentence is crap and I mean the kind of memento I leave burning on your door step kind of crap.

  • borborygmi

    Horses leave momentos all over the place. 

  • The Whistler

    Exactly who is this ad supposed to appeal to?  

    • Camsaure

      Memento shovelers?

      • Rob

        it’s “momento”

        • melissapaulik

          Maybe they meant “movemento”

  • I H8 GOPers

    Dullrymple proofed these ads.

  • Rob

    So far ND’s new “Leave a Legend” campaign is telling would-be visitors to the state that you can come here and

    A) Be hit on by a bunch of drunk douche bags or

    B) Step in horse poop.


    • The Whistler

      Some Canadian chicks like to step in horse poop.  

      • Rob

        Remind me not to hang around with the chicks you hang around with.

        • The Whistler

          You’re no good as a wingman anyway, picking on the girls free health care system.  

      • two_amber_lamps

        Sounds more like a fetish…  Hanni-screed?  Any input on this?

    • Dakotacyr

      Good one!

  • The Whistler

    “momentos”  What a tourist from Minot Montana uses in place of a jiffy when he’s on vacation in Mexico.  “That’ll be doos momentos partner.”

  • Independent

    Arrive a guest, leave a legend…………………………wwwwwwwwww ttttttttthe fffffffffff?

  • Jimmypop

    has any horse historians verified if they spelled it correct or not yet?

    • Dakotacyr

      it should be mementos.

  • Dawn

    “A recent ad in the “North Dakota is Legendary” campaign from the North Dakota Tourism Department sparked a bit of controversy when it was mocked and ridiculed on the internet for making most people, including North Dakotan themselves, cringe in embarrassment.”
    Those criticizing others for not using spell check should use spell check themselves.  I believe that line should read, “…including North Dakotans themselves,…” 

    Not “…including North Dakotan themselves,…”

    • Rob

      Fair criticism.

      Of course, I’m a self-publishing blogger not a state agency spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an ad campaign that will appear in media publications all over the country.

  • sbark

    Save a horse………ride a cowboy

  • HG

    Isn’t momemto spanish for moment?

    • ec99


    • Dakotacyr

      it’s momento.

    • Willis Forster

      It is Italian for moment, maybe for Spanish as well, i do not have Spanish dictionary, but hey, they settled this state did they not or was was that South America, close enough for govt. work.

  • awfulorv

    The explanation is simple. Those in charge decided they’d get their best bang, for their buck, from China. 

  • Lynn Bergman

    The ad obviously is directed at single young women… of which we could use thousands more in western North Dakota. Or should our courageous hard-working single young men in the oilfields just be content to continue their intimate dates with Rosie?

    The miss-spelled word is actually a good thing as it demonstrates we’re not a stuffy bunch of old men…or are we?

    The department of tourism is one of the best run in the country. If you don’t like the taxpayer expenditures, attack legislators, not those who implement the vision.

    • RCND

      ” The ad obviously is directed at single young women… of which we could use thousands more in western North Dakota.”

      I thought that was why they were opening all the strip clubs….

    • Jimmypop

      “The miss-spelled word is actually a good thing as it demonstrates we’re not a stuffy bunch of old men” being stupid when being paid to be smart is not something to be prideful of.

  • RCND

    These ads…. Are just horrible. Its one thing if they were for private sector and paid for by the company benefiting (well, not in this case) from them, but we are paying for this. These ads are depriving an outhouse somewhere of its necessary completion paperwork.

    It begs asking a bigger question… Is it truly the role of state government to be promoting tourism (and having a state agency dedicated to this) at the expense of the taxpayer? It seems private organizations like Chambers of Commerce are more appropriate in this role.

    • Jimmypop

      CofC get LOTS of public money. i wish they didnt.

      • RCND

        Not cool

        • Rob

          $450,000 in membership dues from state organizations to the state and local Chambers of Commerce in the last biennium.

          And that doesn’t include any payments made by local government entities.

    • Guest

      Agreed on all points.

  • 11B40


    Well, I guess I am now officially indebted to spell check. Having spent my most of my worklife in the printing (aka Graphic Communications) industry, I’m use to such things being described as having been “printed” wrong, with the unstated implication that the printer had done it.

    With the state of today’s public education systems, I’m sure that there will be plenty more of this coming down the track. Sometimes, there just isn’t enough SpellCheck in the world.

  • Cherz1967

    How can having shit on your boots be positive?

  • Proof

    Them’s some ugly boots, too! This campaign might arouse the ire of the fashion police as well!

  • Sp

    This ad is for dyed blonde housewives that want to f*ck cowboys.

  • Deke

    momento – According to some sites the alternate spelling momento is so common, some references now no longer consider it a misspelling. Has the department or the Ad agency repsonded to the error, or admitted that it is indeed an error?