Pennsylvania Tourism Sends Bloggers Afield

As part of a campaign to boost spring and summer tourism, Pennsylvania has asked a group of people to daytrip around the commonwealth and blog their travels.

The “Real People. Real Road Trips” effort from the Pennsylvania Tourism Office launched yesterday at VisitPA.com and is linked from Pennsylvania’s official site. It will be supported by a print, regional cable and online media campaign. Creative and media strategy are courtesy of Pittsburg-based Ripple Effects Interactive.

Pennsylvania’s tourism bloggers include a history buff, two female friends on a cultural tour, a Harley enthusiast, an urban “hipster” couple immersed in rural activities, a family in search of theme parks, and an outdoor sportsman. Each of these will take three trips each, and document their experiences via writing and video.

“We’re not pretending it’s the most effective way of telling people about mountain biking in Pennsylvania, or about cruising down Pennsylvania roads on your Harley, but we think we’re touting traveling in Pennsylvania as a little more on the hip side,” said Mickey Rowley, deputy secretary of tourism in Pennsylvania’s department of community and economic development.

An ad campaign supporting the effort will include on- and offline components. A rich media buy encompasses banners on AccuWeather, WashingtonPost.com and NYTimes.com, among other placements. Ripple Effects is also trying to generate viral awareness by reaching out to influential bloggers.

“There’s a blog on the Philadelphia Inquirer that picked it up. We’re trying to pick up on the self-generating momentum that’s possible in the blogosphere,” said Patrick Nace, who works for the agency on the Pennsylvania tourism account.

Additionally, two :15 spots will air on regional cable in Pennsylvania and contiguous states. To obtain footage for one of these, Ripple Effects’ offline agency partner Red Tettemer will follow the “thrill-seeking family” bloggers on a trip to Hershey Park.

Nace said the effort is largely geared toward commonwealth residents, but is also trying to capture drive-through traffic from places like Washington D.C. and Baltimore.

It’s up for debate whether the program actually qualifies as blogging, or is simply user-generated marketing content. The site lacks sequential posts, comments and some other common characteristics of Weblogs. However, the freeform first person narratives and lo-fi homemade video spots do conform to the spirit of amateur media production that characterizes many blogs.

“These people have they’re own quirky styles, and they’re not the sort of writers we recruit for our advertising,” said Rowley. “These are just folks who happen to have an interest in mountain biking… and history, and we’re letting them do their things.”

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