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Vital state ad campaign portrays Utah as playland

Written by editor

Whatever kind of recreation you want to do, you can do it in Utah.

Whatever kind of recreation you want to do, you can do it in Utah.

That theme is central to the Utah Office of Tourism’s all-important $3.2 million summer advertising campaign, which debuted Wednesday on national cable channels, local television in targeted Western cities, selected magazines and on travel-oriented Internet sites.

Video spots and print advertisements show a family in a variety of Utah locales, loaded up with outdoor recreation equipment, everything from canoes and kayaks to golf clubs and backpacks.

“In a stressful world, people want to reconnect with the natural world,” said Tourism Office managing director Leigh von der Esch. “We understand it’s a tight economy. People are looking for good value in their vacations. Our commercials, with a bit of a sense of humor, are eye-catching but also get across the message Utah has a lot to do in a small area.”

She does not think the ads, created for the Tourism Office by its advertising agency, Struck, will come off as goofy. Early runs of print ads in Sunset magazine have generated far more calls than more conventional approaches, von der Esch added.

“I think people will enjoy it,” she said. “We can all use a chuckle, or a smile on our faces, at this point.”

No doubt, said Steve Lindburg, a state tourism board member and general manager of the Hilton Salt Lake City Center. February hotel occupancy figures that showed economic activity down 20 percent from a year earlier prompted him to note: “That is exactly why we need to be excited about launching the TV advertising campaign.”

The “Road Trip” and “What’s next?” spots will air on 11 cable channels for three weeks this month and three more in May. Channels include National Geographic, A&E, History Channel, HGTV, MSNBC, Animal Planet and Fox Sports Net.

Commercials also will appear in May and June on local networks in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Denver, metro areas responsible for much of Utah’s out-of-state tourism.

The canoes, kayaks and other water-oriented elements visible in the back of the family’s vehicle or stacked high on backpacks are there to appeal to desert dwellers in the Phoenix and L.A. markets.

“We can’t just sell red rock because they have Sedona in Arizona,” von der Esch said. “But Arizona doesn’t have the water element that Moab has with running rivers. It leaves the impression ‘escape in great water.’ It’s a very appealing idea as you get into the hotter days of summer.”

Von der Esch is convinced that whatever the economy throws at people, they still want — probably even more than ever — to escape with loved ones or to find a more comfortable place for themselves in the universe.

“River running, hiking and our state’s iconic beauty have great appeal to people trying to slow their world down and think about something a little bigger than they are,” von der Esch said. “You might not be able to get your arms around the economy, but you can get your arms around a beautiful sunset at Delicate Arch.

“People want to go where they can still afford to take their families, and still have that summer memory they look forward to every year.”

These ads show Utah is the place to do that, she said.