Posted by: Kath Usitalo | March 18, 2010

If No One Sees the Brilliant Pure Michigan Campaign, Is It Still Brilliant?

Piers Gorge in the UP, a Pure Michigan treasure

The latest news about the fate of the Pure Michigan advertising campaign must have the Illinois tourism industry doing a happy dance.

Word is that our representatives in Lansing cannot cough up the coins to continue the award winning tourism promotion program at any meaningful level, just as our neighboring state is launching a new ad called “Illinois: A Place.” One columnist says it poorly mimics the “glorious commercials across (the) lake.”

Paige and Tucker at Piers Gorge

Lewis Lazare in his March 15 Chicago Sun-Times column claims the 60-second Illinois TV commercial doesn’t compare to “the brilliant ‘Pure Michigan’ effort that has touched our emotions and no doubt lured countless tourists to that nearby state.”

Yes, Mr. Lazare, the Pure Michigan ads did reach a new audience in 2009 when a $30 million budget expanded the usual print, radio, and billboard campaign to include cable TV across the land. It worked to bring first time visitors to the Great Lakes State from the south, the east, and way out west .

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Travel Michigan have lots of statistics to back up their claims about the success of Pure Michigan, but I conducted my own informal poll last summer as I traveled the state.

The Mustard Seed in Manistique is one of the businesses that greeted visitors from across the country who'd seen the Pure Michigan TV ads

In casual conversations—without letting on that I do freelance work with the state’s tourism office—I asked owners and workers at restaurants, motels and shops, “How’s business compared to last year?”

All said they were thankful to be holding their own (due to the economy) and in many cases were actually doing better than the previous year(s). Most were surprised at the number of license plates from all over the country instead of just the region, and said that the visitors invariably credited the Pure Michigan advertising campaign for their trip.

Now, with the award-winning Pure Michigan ads all but out of the way due to lack of funding, Illinois and the other states competing for tourist dollars will have the advantage. It won’t matter if their campaigns are not as “brilliant” as Michigan’s because their ads will be viewed, and ours will be collecting dust.

If no one sees a brilliant campaign, is it still brilliant?

You just cannot spread a message very far with the $5.4 million currently budgeted for Pure Michigan. That’s an allocation of about 50 cents per resident invested in one of the state’s top industries. The legislature claims to be working on a bigger budget, but they must come to an agreement on Pure Michigan funding before they leave Lansing on March 25 for their Easter holiday, or the window of opportunity to buy summertime advertising will be closed.

I think I hear the dance band warming up in Illinois. And Minnesota. And Ohio. And….

READ about the situation at CNBC.

VIEW the Pure Michigan ads at

CONTACT the state legislature to urge action before March 25; find your Senator and Representative at the State Web site.



  1. Living in the UP, I quite understand what the tourism industry brings to the local economy… read your post and thought that I’d link Pure Michigan in my side bar. I know I get a few visitors that come to see the Michigan sites on my blog… ya never know, but I can sure do my little part.
    BTW, I read your blog through a reader so don’t comment often. Thanks for sharing all the great info and pics!

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