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VOL. 38 | NO. 29 | Friday, July 18, 2014

State signs out-of-state firm for 'Made in Tennessee' tourism ads

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee officials have signed a five-year, $60 million contract with a Kansas City, Missouri firm to produce the "Made in Tennessee" tourism campaign.

The marketing agency VML, which has opened a Nashville office, produced two 30-second TV commercials promoting getting outdoors in Tennessee. The ads feature with dramatic waterfalls, green rolling hills and horseback-riding amid a forest scene. The ads will play in about a dozen markets around the country.

The head of the state's tourism department, Susan Whitaker, told WPLN-FM in Nashville at a time when other states are investing heavily in tourism promotion, Tennessee needs to keep up. Whitaker also cited ABC's "Nashville" as sparking new interest in visiting the city. VML's ad campaign is aimed at turning that interest into a visit.

Governor Bill Haslam's current budget included a nearly $11 million tourism budget, $6 million of which is being dedicated to the VML contract. It's a 5-year agreement, and the firm's total maximum payout is $60 million, though that doesn't guarantee that's what the company will be paid.

Whitaker said publicly-financed advertising yields big turns. For every taxpayer dollar invested, around $19 are sunk back into local and state coffers, she said.

Whitaker said if tourism efforts continue to receive strong funding, they'll be able to hit their goal of making it into the top 10 states for tourism. Right now, in terms of revenue, Tennessee is ranked 17th.

"Part of the reason for that, and I don't broadcast this to people when they come, is that we have a very high sales tax," she said.

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