Create Magazine Advertisements That Work

20151103_165713-1-01Yesterday I picked up a popular regional travel magazine.  I read through the articles, checked out the pictures and the calendar listings. Then I skimmed the advertisements to see what’s new with my competitors and attractions. Being the December issue many of the advertisers opted for ads of things to do in winter. One had me doing the proverbial scratching of the head, as in ‘what were they thinking?’  This ad not only missed their brand promise, they were actually misrepresenting their product.

The advertiser is an upscale hotel & spa located on a bay in western Washington. I know the property well and in my mind their brand is stylish luxury with quality service. The advertisement though focused on an exterior image of the property on a rare day when there was snow. Having lived in that city for many years I could count on two hands the number of days that snowy scene could be replicated. While it’s a quaint shot, it truly misses the mark and would be a disappointment to anyone expecting a snowy winter wonderland.

We’ve all seen advertisements where the images or text do not accurately match the product. It’s common and has happened since the dawn of marketing. But given technology and online outlets (like review sites) anyone can find out the ‘true story’.  Bottom line, consumers are more skeptical these day of advertisements. So it’s important to present your brand realistically and accurately. Otherwise, advertisers do a disservice to their customers and products.

Here are a few tips to create a good print advertisement:

  1. Know your brand:  In essence, your brand is what the consumer thinks and feels about your product, service or destination.  It’s the emotional and factual appeal the consumer has regarding your product or service.  Be who you are and what the customer knows or expects of you.
  2. Deliver on what you show: As in the case of the hotel I mentioned, don’t show a snowy scene that rarely happens.  Instead, present candid shots of regular people enjoying what happens all the time. Highlight some eye catching feature or benefit that conveys your brand.
  3. Avoid the cliche’: If your a hotel, avoid showing the typical shot of a hotel room: All your competitors do that.  If you’re a destination, step away from the staged shot of two young women laughing while holding shopping bags in front of a boutique store. That shot seems to be rampant these days.
  4. Keep it simple:  Opt for one image or graphic that says ‘wow’ rather than a photo collage that says ‘clutter’.  With dozens of advertisements screaming for the reader’s attention a clean look gets more attention.
  5. Talk to me, not at me: Use simple, fewer words. Have a call to action and appeal to reader’s emotions.  Avoid the ‘everything but the kitchen sink‘ syndrome where you feel compelled to say everything about your business or product.  That’s why you have a website, guide or other resources. Avoid tiny text, especially reverse text (white text on black background or some other color). Best to use reverse  text for short titles.
  6. Look before you create: Thumb through publications to see what others are doing.  Notice what catches your attention and what does not. Watch for what is being overdone and try something else.  Every coastal destination shows waves and the beach in their advertisements, maybe with a young couple walking hand in hand.  So if you’re a beach town, what can you feature that conveys your distinct brand experience in a different way or something that would make your town stand out?

Just a few thoughts on how to build a better magazine advertisement. By the way, as I write this there’s no snow here in Yakima, just another one of those 300 days when we get sunshine. Sun is a promise I can guarantee!


Destination Marketing: Shift Happens

dmaiThese are tumultuous days in destination marketing.  Quite simply, shift is happening in our industry.

Last week I attended Destination Marketing Association International’s 100th Anniversary Convention.  Underlying many of the educational sessions was a dual sense of urgency and excitement. The urgency was that the world is moving at a faster pace, largely driven by technology, and DMOs need to be solidly in the run. With the multitude of ways travelers get information and make decisions, many Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) are rightfully concerned about being relevant. But there are those (like me) who are excited with the opportunities technology brings and the many resources to inform and assist the people we serve- visitors, meeting planners, travel trade, local citizens, industry partners, civic leaders and others.

At the conference, DMAI unveiled the first phase of DestinationNEXT, a project that helps DMOs grasp the many travel trends affecting them and a variety of ways to capitalize on those trends. It’s an excellent document that will be followed up with best practices and strategies. It sets the path to deal with the ever changing landscape in which DMOs thrive. For a more detailed synopsis of the project read Greg Oates excellent feature he penned for Skift.

Another central theme was the need to nurture future leaders of our industry and communities. DMAI has a “30 under 30” program that recognizes 30 rising DMO professionals under the age of 30. I had a chance to casually chat with about ten of them at the end of the event. Wow, what a sharp group! I asked for their opinions and they were not shy with their answers. They enjoyed the conference and showed interest in additional ways to connect and learn. As a member of  DMAI’s Education Committee it was clear we had presented a good conference, but we need other ways to engage these future leaders after the convention is done. One idea they liked was a mentorship program with more experienced DMO professionals. Definitely we need to include them at the planning level to meet their future educational needs.

A highlight for me was the program that Lee Fisher of CEOs for Cities gave regarding what makes a vital city and how DMOs can be a catalyst and key player in making them so. His points reinforced my belief that we are actually Destination MANAGEMENT Organizations. CEOs for Cities is doing great work to help communities connect and engage.

The networking opportunities and discussions are always a favorite of mine. Getting a chance to chat with long time friends and colleagues is invaluable, priceless even. Technology is important but it will never replace or replicate one-on-one connections and conversations.

So as our industry turns the corner on 100 years, here’s to the next 100!

Are Visitor Guides Still Needed?

Visitor guidesHistorically visitor guides have been a major activity of tourism bureaus and chambers. They were the primary means of telling the story for the community and were the main tool visitors used to decide if they were going to visit and what to see and do. So we placed great emphasis on creating and distributing them.

With the advent of the internet and other sources people have to make travel plans many have thought these guides were no longer useful or necessary. Research is telling us otherwise.

The Western Association of CVB’s (WACVB) and Temple University Laboratory for Tourism and eCommerce concurrently did research on the value and effectiveness of official visitor guides for cities and states from around the U.S. What did they find?

Both studies documented that visitor guides helped visitors learn about attractions and events in the destinations, with the WACVB study stating that the guides convinced visitors to stay longer by nearly two days. Users of visitor guides tend to be older (mean age of 53 years) with healthy household incomes. But it was not just older folks who read them: 20% of the users were millineals.

Other findings:

  • 50% of the consumers asked for their guide more than five weeks prior to travel
  • Both reports show that 70% of the readers had planned to visit prior to ordering guides. However, the WACVB study showed that of the ones who were “undecided” prior to getting the guide, 83% were influenced to choose the destination after reading the publication.
  • More than half of respondents used the guide prior to arrival, and close to 40% used their guide in advance and while at the destination.
  • Users of the guides spend 45 minutes or more reading them.

Though their roles have changed, visitor guides are still important planning tools. For example, the wineries in our community tell me they see folks come in to their tasting rooms with our guide in hand.

I know that when I go somewhere, whether I requested a guide in advance or not, I like having a guide to help with my planning. Often I will take them home for reference or to share with others. The fact is, images on cell phone screens and websites just can’t convey what a printed guide can.


Credit: Thanks to John Hudak of Madden Media for his insightful blog on these reports.

John Hudak
both studies was that the OVG’s increased the number of attractions and events people consumed during their trips.  The WACVB study actually calculated that the OVG’s helped cause visitors to increase their length of stay by an average of 1.9 days.  – See more at:
new major studies on the role and effectiveness of Official Visitor Guides have just been released, and the findings are enlightening and insightful.  One study, conducted by Temple University Laboratory for Tourism and eCommerce, includes 5 State and 5 City DMO’s from various parts of the United States, and the other commissioned by the Western Association of CVB’s and conducted by Destination Analysts samples 11 CVB’s in the Western US. Both studies included varying budget size DMO’s from large to small. – See more at:
new major studies on the role and effectiveness of Official Visitor Guides have just been released, and the findings are enlightening and insightful.  One study, conducted by Temple University Laboratory for Tourism and eCommerce, includes 5 State and 5 City DMO’s from various parts of the United States, and the other commissioned by the Western Association of CVB’s and conducted by Destination Analysts samples 11 CVB’s in the Western US. Both studies included varying budget size DMO’s from large to small. – See more at:

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Tourism Product Development Is Going To The Dogs

relax2Earlier this week we announced that National Geographic Books had released The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel which includes dog friendly businesses, attractions and outdoor areas in 75 pet-friendly cities and regions across the United States and Canada. The Yakima Valley is one of them.

The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel was written by Kelly E. Carter, a New York Times best-selling author and pet travel expert for AOL’s Paw Nation and Elite Traveler. In each destination she highlights pet offerings including hotels, parks, pet shops and pet friendly businesses. Features of the book include walks to take with your dog, insider tips from local pet owners and sidebars detailing opportunities for people with a dog in tow.

Our office (Yakima Valley Tourism) approached Carter in early 2013 as the guidebook was being developed. The previous year we had created, an award winning program developed to help visitors traveling to our Valley with their dogs. In phone conversations with Ms. Carter I knew our region was going to be a good fit given all the work we had done on Wine Doggies. And our efforts paid off.  In addition to including the Wine Doggies website,  The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel highlights numerous Yakima Valley walking and hiking trails, local pet services, dog friendly wineries and pet events.

Our Valley is one of only six communities in the Pacific Northwest featured in the book. That in itself is an honor given that towns and regions all over the Northwest are well suited for dog travel. In most cases just one or two destinations were selected for each state or province to be in the book. I don’t mean to boast but we worked hard to be included. If we had not developed and worked with our community partners on being more pet friendly I’m not sure we would have been in the running.

People traveling with their dogs is a niche’ market worth pursuing. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spend $78 million was spent on travel that included their pet. Seattle and Portland, two prime in-bound markets for us, have more dogs per capita than children. In a national survey taken of more than 6,000 U.S. pet owners, most traveled at least once a year with their pets.

One of our primary goals with Wine Doggies is to cultivate a more dog-friendly destination. That effort involves our businesses, partners and communities working together to make that happen. Recognition of our efforts in a book of this stature helps us to reach that goal.