Montana Tourism Campaign Wins Big at ESTO

The Montana Department of Commerce’s Office of Tourism and Business Development and its advertising and marketing agency, Hoffman York, took home three prestigious Mercury Awards at the U.S. Travel Association’s annual Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) Conference held in Phoenix on Tuesday, August 14. The Mercury awards, presented by the National Council of State Tourism Directors (NCSTD), recognize excellence and creative accomplishments in state destination marketing in 13 categories. Montana and Hoffman York were awarded in the categories of Integrated Marketing Campaign, Printed Collateral Materials and Social Media Campaign.

“The awards cap off a record-breaking year for Montana Tourism in terms of attracting visitors to the state,” said Montana Department of Commerce Director Pam Haxby-Cote.“Over the past year, we’ve taken a data-driven approach to increase awareness of what Montana has to offer, and the results show we’re on the right track.”

And now, a little bit more on the award-winning campaigns.


Integrated Marketing Campaign- State Marketing Budget Less than $10 million: To help increase awareness of Montana, the concept needed to break through the noise of the tourism market while setting Montana apart. The print, social, out of home, digital and earned media campaign focused around searching for moments. Though each execution was different, everything followed a consistent theme and maintained a cohesive style. Playing off of those ‘searching’ for their #MontanaMoment, a search bar and clever headlines including “Endless adventure without endless lines” or “Morning routines… that are anything but routine.” The campaign looked great and performed even better. Digitally, recorded a 38 percent increase in year-over-year organic traffic.

Notes from the judges: The creative focus on "moments" along with search bar pinpoints was unusual and unique. The campaign really captured the essence of Montana, with useful information about how to plan multiple trips to the state. The metrics were extremely impressive, with billions of impressions across Pandora, Hulu, paid social and video.

Montana Print Ad

Printed Collateral Materials: The visuals for this campaign included everything from scenic hikes to awe-inspiring landscapes. As part of the award-winning integrated campaign, print ads featured a search bar bringing this traditional media into the digital world. Headlines carried readers into the ad and then provided more detail in the body copy. Along with the search bar, an outline of Montana with a location pin showed readers where they could find this particular moment on their very own vacation. The print campaign had an estimated 15.8 million impressions. Based on post-campaign research, there was an increase in aided recall and intent to travel to Montana in the next 18 months, and more than 90 percent claim their travels to Montana were influenced by an advertisement for the state.

Notes from the judges: The vision to start with the blue sky and then gradually show the different parts of Montana is an interesting and effective strategic approach, as is the goal to make the state, which is remote to many people, more accessible. The spirit of the message comes across clearly in the imagery and words. The creative was original, and the concept seemed to resonate with their target audience.

Social Media Campaign: The #MontanaMoment Social Campaign was created to increase awareness while informing and inspiring our target markets. Marketers used various tools including monthly Facebook Live events to showcase the state’s untouched beauty during each of Montana’s seasons. In addition, an immersive Facebook Canvas took mobile users on a 7-day road trip stopping at key locations throughout the state. These #MontanaMoment efforts resulted in over 12 million impressions on Facebook.

Notes from the judges: The vision, strategy and target audience were clearly defined. The judges liked their use of new tools, and willingness to experiment, get creative and think outside the box. 

Each year, The Mercury Awards recognize state and territory marketing excellence. With hundreds of entries, the Mercury Awards are a prestigious way to honor the year’s greatest creative. Hoffman York and the Montana marketing team are honored to have received such a prominent award.

“Everything we do for Montana is rooted in research. Bringing that research to life in an interesting and engaging way is what we strive for,” said Troy Peterson, Hoffman York Chief Executive Officer.  “We are thrilled that our efforts have resonated with travelers and that it has paid off for Montana.”

Overall, Montana visitation numbers continue to rise with passenger records at Montana’s airports. Glacier National Park had record attendance in 2017 as travelers continue to choose the Last Best Place.

“We’re really proud of these campaigns. And the results speak for themselves, Montana welcomed 12.5 million out-of-state travelers last year—a new record for the state. We look forward to continuing this success in the coming years,” added Haxby-Cote.

About The Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development at the Department of Commerce

Montana's Tourism Office markets the state's spectacular unspoiled nature, vibrant and charming small towns, breathtaking experiences, relaxing hospitality and competitive business climate to promote the state as a place to visit and do business. For more information, go to VISITMT.COM


About Hoffman York

Hoffman York, a full-service independent advertising and marketing communications agency with offices in Milwaukee and Helena, Mont., has experience taking destination marketing to new heights.  Explore our Montana Tourism case study to see what we mean. Interested in learning more? Send us a postcard an e-mail at [email protected].


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