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North Dakota Tourism Advertising Campaign

Evolving Strategies and Forward Thinking: Why ND Travel Is on the Rise


Odney has been the agency of record for the North Dakota Department of Commerce (NDDOC) Tourism Division for nearly two decades. We have worked collaboratively with the North Dakota Tourism, sharing the mission of driving visitors ultimately expanding wealth in our state. Odney has been integral in moving the needle for North Dakota Tourism and delivering to the bottom line: from conducting research and developing the Legendary brand, to evolving and elevating creative and media placement through the years, to more recently helping bring the Be Legendary brand to life. We continue to work alongside Commerce in partnership, celebrating victories and overcoming challenges together.  

The Task / Challenge

North Dakota’s most fundamental challenge since 2001 has been low awareness as a vacation destination. Often times, the only image in a potential visitor’s mind has been a snowy setting from the movie Fargo. Though North Dakota is a place of adventure, beautiful scenery, vibrant communities and new opportunities, we recognize that most travelers have limited perceptions of the state.  
Along with low awareness and North Dakota Tourism having one of the lowest budgets in the nation, a worldwide pandemic in 2020 brought new challenges with shifting consumer behavior, including locating to another region geographically, or being held under national and state travel restrictions. These factors challenged Odney to think outside the box and evolve creatively and strategically how and where we present North Dakota’s image and message. Synergy between the two not only drives awareness ─ it drives results.  

The Solution

To develop an effective campaign, there must be a strong alignment between creative messaging, strategic media placement and campaign goals. It has been vital to not only shed new light on how we promote North Dakota visually, but continually identify new places and people to share our message with. 
As long as we’ve been North Dakota Tourism’s agency of record, creativity has been the driving force to sell our state while offsetting challenges. By showcasing our state in new and innovative ways visually over the past several years, to leveraging Hollywood celebrity and North Dakota native, Josh Duhamel, we’ve been able to spark a feeling of excitement that drives visitors across our borders. And now, we are bringing the current Be Legendary brand to life with energy and inspiration to new, potential visitors. 

As media consumption patterns have evolved within our target audiences, so have our media buys and placements. We’ve engaged these audiences with unique out-of-home media, Connected TV, custom events and sports sponsorships. We are continually keeping pace with changes in technology and media consumption to attract our next visitor. Our messaging has greeted visitors at Super Bowl LII, U.S. Bank Stadium during the Vikings inaugural season, Minnesota Twins fans via Fox Sports North and airports in Chicago and Minneapolis. We also executed a takeover of Chicago Union Station in 2019 with a custom experiential event. 
Most recently, we’ve wrapped trains and buses in Chicago and Minneapolis, we developed the first ever North Dakota Road Trip guide as a supplement to remaining Travel Guides to encourage visitors to road trip through the state, and we partnered with magazine publishers to create custom content showcasing the North Dakota.  

In 2020, North Dakota did not go dark. Rather than a “wait and see” approach, it was vital we worked together as a team to retool creative and messaging, revamp campaign landing pages and shift dollars and placements for the most effective outcome. And we were quick on our feet, making sure North Dakota Tourism didn’t lose all the momentum we’ve worked hard to build since the beginning of our relationship in 2001.  

We quickly pivoted and reworked the plan. We re-edited the television spots to reflect appropriate messaging for the time, so we could continue our TV presence. We developed an in-state campaign and a state-funded cooperative program to ensure in-state partners were able to advertise to residents.  Outdoor recreation advertising continued to run as demand was high, and North Dakota could offer safe and worry-free travel experience to outdoor enthusiast. In September, we partnered with the U.S. Travel Association to take advantage of opportunities to be a part of a national united front to help inspire travel. This campaign ran through the fall months. And in December, we developed and executed a first ever winter campaign to highlight all there is to experience in an effort to stimulate in-state and regional travel to the state. Since the last North Dakota Tourism contract renewal, our work has paid off.  

Hunting and Fishing TV

Road Trip TV

Theodore Roosevelt National Park TV

Print Ads

ND Tourism 2021 TRNP South Unit ND Tourism Hunting ND Tourism Fishing Biking City Dining True West


ooh bus wrap

The Results

he latest advertising campaign data and research shows our efforts have worked:  
2016 Tourism Industry Highlights 
  • In 2016, the advertising budget of $3.17M motivated 354,000 trips and generated $328.3 million in visitor spending as a result of our campaign 
  • Each $1 invested generated $104 in visitor spending  
  • Each $1 invested generated $5.90 in returned tax dollars for the state (Source: Strategic Marketing and Research Insights 2016)  
  • Tourism is North Dakota’s 3rd largest industry, behind Oil/Natural Gas and Agriculture (Source: NDSU Economic Base 2016)  

2017 Tourism Industry Highlights 
  • 22 million visitors  
  • $3.1 billion in visitor spending  
  • $323 million tax impact of travel./tourism in North Dakota 
  • 42,614 jobs supported by travel/tourism in the state 
 (Source: 2017 Tourism Division Annual Report) 

2018 Tourism Industry Highlights  
  • 21% increase in website traffic with more than 1.2 million sessions (highest trafficked year to date)  
  • Visitation to Theodore Roosevelt National Park tracking nearly 6% higher year-over-year  
  • State Park attendance up 16% year-over-year  
  • Major attraction attendance up 3%  
(Source: 2018 Tourism Division Annual Report)  

2019 Tourism Industry Highlights  
  • The latest economic impact research was delivered in 2019, showing that growth returned to North Dakota’s travel industry, moving past the oil boom-and-bust cycle of the mid-2010s  
  • 22.6 million visitors (increase of 1 million)  
  • $3 billion in visitor spending (increase of 5.2%)  
  • $300.5 million in state and local tax revenue (increase of 4.8%) 
(Source: 2019 Tourism Division Annual Report) 

The year 2020 has had a devastating impact on the travel and tourism industry. While North Dakota Tourism wasn’t excluded from that, we have ample positive campaign results to highlight.  

2020 Tourism Industry Highlights 
  • Total website traffic was up 51% YOY 
  • Overall traffic was up 169% from SD, 61% in NE, 63% in MN, 31% in IL and 70% in Wisconsin YOY 
  • Overall traffic to the website was up from all 50 states YOY  
  • Campaign traffic was up 1050% from SD, 726% in NE, 77% in MN, 19% in IL and 30% in Wisconsin YOY  
  • Campaign click-through was 4X higher than national average 
  • Digital campaign had 8.4 million video completions 
  • 300K people visited the website because of our digital campaign efforts 
  • The “Always” COVID-19 campaign video had a click-through rate almost 6x the national average 
  • 12+ million unique people were reached with our digital campaign and 135,000 unique individuals clicked on our ads 
  • YouTube was extremely successful in reaching niche markets including hunting and fishing  – over 3X the average conversion rate  
  • Shifting approximately 25% of the budget from Canada (due to border closure) to the U.S. markets, resulted in a 94% increase in website traffic 
  • North Dakota saw a 54.1% lift in arrivals in 2020, while neighboring states saw a 30-35% lift 
  • 2020 was the first year we exceeded 1 million unique users 
  • 2021 is trending to nearly double the number of site users on the campaign pages compared to 2020, with a 97% increase 


Got Questions?

Bismarck Office:

117 West Front Avenue
Bismarck, ND 58504