My dad grew up in a 300-person town in Nebraska called Bruning. He graduated in a high school class of 20. When my parents were first dating in college, my mom came down to visit and made an illegal U-turn on the town's main road, and by the time she got back to my dad's childhood home, a concerned neighbor had already alerted my grandma about it.
Unlike my dad, my grandparents (who own a local fertilizing company), my uncle, and my cousin still live there. As a kid, I remember it was the kind of place where the vending machines were locked up on Sundays, and seeing my grandparents usually involved getting to drive a tractor and being pushed in a wheelbarrow through the cornfield in their backyard. The last time I was there, we had something called hamburger pizza from the local gas station that was topped with pickles.
My experiences in one small town might not be indicative of the state as a whole, but they do underline why Nebraska's new tourism slogan is pretty perfect. On Wednesday, the state rolled out a new campaign that leans pretty hard into its reputation as just flyover country, saying simply: "Honestly, it's not for everyone."
The new campaign, which will hit "key out-of-state markets" in spring 2019, uses a little self-deprecating humor in an attempt to get more visitors to a state that's consistently ranked 50th on lists of states people want to visit, according to a press release. Some of the ads feature tag lines that echo common phrases associated with the state: "there's nothing to do here" and "famous for our flat, boring landscape" over images of people "tanking" or floating down a river in livestock tanks, and hikers traversing Toadstool Geologic Park. According to the Omaha World-Herald, it's all the work of advertising agency Vladimir Jones, which to some locals' dismay, is based in Colorado.
Still, the folks over at Nebraska's Tourism Commission believe the ads appeal to people's sense of adventure, and ultimately represent the state's good-natured Midwest values.
"The new brand platform is defined by honesty," State Tourism Director John Ricks said in the press release. "The overarching concept of honesty is rooted in a mindset that values transparency, purity, and simplicity. A way of embracing the not-so-obvious bits of life. We feel we’ve accomplished just that."
Still, Twitter users submitted their own take on the ads, offering up some other distinguishing qualities that might be good enough to bring tourism to the state:
Sure, Nebraska is more than the sum of its small-town charm. It has an excellent zoo, a thriving arts and music scene, and—seeing as the Huskers' Memorial Stadium just had its 364th consecutive sell-out—die-hard sports fans, win or lose.
But perhaps the best part about Nebraska is the sense that locals can't imagine why out-of-towners would want to live anywhere else. And maybe that's a feeling worth traveling for.
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