John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Is this an innocent promotion for North Dakota tourism, or an enticement for a steamy interlude?
North Dakota: Everyone knows they’re some nasty freaks up there. What with all the gaspy utterances of "yah" and "y’betcha" while they run around in places like White Butte and Naard Creek Ranch, something filthy has to be going on.
Now there’s compelling evidence of the state’s overwhelming sexiness: Clear the children from the room and direct your eyes to the above advertisement promoting North Dakota and, it may appear, a hot five-layer swinger sandwich. "Leave a legend," indeed.
The ad, which was abruptly pulled from the state tourism board’s Facebook page last week, was shot last summer in downtown Fargo in front of the Hotel Donaldson. It features a group of real-life friends exchanging flirty glances through a bar window. How they’re communicating past a pane of glass is a mystery – perhaps that guy with his hand under the table is texting? (Let’s hope so.) The way the ad drops the loaded word "decisions" enriches the sense that something hot and gymnastically complicated is about to happen.
As for that "leave a legend" bit, it’s a marketing slogan that ad agency Odney has adopted for its North Dakota tourism campaign. Says Odney’s website:
Our brand strategy positions North Dakota as "Legendary." This one-word branding statement is memorable, powerful and evocative. It's also versatile, as it can be applied to a number of experiences ranging from outdoor recreation to shopping and urban amenities.
Or bonkin’. When the state tourism department posted the ad on its Facebook page last Thursday, it was immediately flooded with comments about the sexual interpretation as well as mean-spirited remarks about the women’s appearance and weight. In another weird development, AdLand noted that the neon sign above the head of the lady in purple is kind of shaped like a penis, suggesting that the state’s women "have one thing on their mind." (It is far from the first instance of subliminal sex advertising.)
North Dakota officials decided that the ad was drawing scrutiny for the wrong reasons and scrubbed it from Facebook the same day it was posted. Then they removed it from the state’s 2012 digital visitor’s guide. (It's still in the hard copy for all you pervs out there.)
The people involved in the creation of the image deny everything. Sara Otte Colemen, head of the state tourism department, told the AP that she thought, "'Oh, this is a little cheesy.' I certainly didn't think it was over the line, or seductive, or in any way in poor taste." Odney president Pat Finken, meanwhile, said it was "a little flirty, a little fun," but not an endorsement for Midwest sex tourism.
Did North Dakota make the right choice here? Commenter p_radicator over at AdWeek certainly thinks so: “I would pull the ad because one of the dudes has a popped collar.”