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.