Nebraska hires Colorado agencies to sell state to tourists

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Tourism Commission has entrusted the state’s message to new writers and merchants from outside the state to get the attention of tourists who haven’t paid attention to Nebraska.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that 12 marketing and advertising agencies competed over the summer, including five from Nebraska. The three that were chosen are all based in Colorado or have an office there.

Meredith Vaughan, CEO of Vladimir Jones, one of the chosen agencies, said she and her crew are looking for an emotional connection for Nebraska to tell the story of a state and what it can stand for. Vaughan, whose company employs several people from Nebraska, believes there’s a way an out-of-state agency can lure visitors to Nebraska.

Vaughan said that although it’s early in the process of discovering how to sell Nebraska, geography shouldn’t define perception.

The state has been ranked last out of all states people said they’re interested in visiting. Vaughan said people aren’t familiar with or aware of Nebraska, and while that’s not a good position to be in, it makes for a “wonderful challenge.”

“The slate is clean. You have the opportunity to shape consumer perceptions based on what is real and meaningful, and not have to change anything that is necessarily negative,” she said.

At least one Lincoln businessman has questioned why all the chosen agencies have Colorado connections, and no Nebraska agency was ever given the chance to deliver an oral presentation as a proposal.

The commission didn’t see the talent the state has to offer, said Tim Geisert, a chief marketing officer in Lincoln. He also said he’d rather see the more than $4 million spent not on tourism but on bringing young people back to Nebraska to live and help businesses build their companies.

“We need talent back. We need our people back,” he said. “Think about if you could take this tourism money and put it toward that. I think you’d see a lot more economic development than filling hotel rooms.”