Somebody in West Bygod gets it

Check this wonderful bit about the new West Virginia Tourism campaign:

Readers flipping through the newest edition of O, The Oprah Magazine might stumble upon an ad headline that reads, “Whatever you do, don’t come to West Virginia!”

If you’re a Mountaineer, don’t be offended.

The West Virginia Division of Tourism and Charles Ryan Associates are trying a new marketing technique.

The ads are meant to lure vacationers to the Mountain State.

Officials say standard travel ads, such as a picture of a mountainside and a message to “Visit West Virginia,” don’t really do the trick anymore. (Story.)

I love the creative approach, but cannot imagine how they got it executed. I’ve worked with more timid ad people – both in agencies and in the corporate groups that manage advertising – in the past few years than I can shake a stick at, and had I taken a concept like this one to the principal at the last agency I worked for the best I could have hoped for was an extended, exasperated whine about how I just don’t get it.

On the planet these folks live on, you can’t take any risk of acknowledging any kind of possible negative at all. Even if you know that your target audience spends hours a day bad-mouthing your client, the last thing you can do is acknowledge that reality. Right now my old boss would probably be advising the good folks at Menu Foods (and their clients at Iams, Nutro, Hills, etc.) to carry on as though nothing unusual had happened in the last couple of weeks

Of course, those of us with an informed acquaintance of how real audiences actually work know that the single dumbest thing corporate communications of any sort can do is to ignore what their audiences already know.

Pretend bad news doesn’t exist, and they’ll pretend you don’t exist.

Hats off to the West Virginia Division of Tourism and Charles Ryan Associates. They get it. Selling West Virginia isn’t the easiest job in the world, but I’m betting they get significantly better results than the folks over at The Conventional Timid and Terrified Group.

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