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Tourism director Sara Otte Coleman said Josh Duhamel will once again be North Dakota's tourism ambassador for the 2018 campaign. Duhamel is shown holding his son, Axel, in a photograph taken at Minot's Heritage Park.

Using smart phone geolocating technology, North Dakota Tourism now knows where a person is when they see and interact with a digital advertisement that is marketing travel to North Dakota.

The agency can then track that person and know exactly if and when they arrive in the state.

It’s a balancing act as the state divvies up its limited tourism marketing dollars and visitors’ digital footprint is informing these decisions.

The department has the ability to see how far a person scrolls into a tourism-sponsored article about North Dakota travel and it can tell whether someone watches a whole tourism video or simply clicks away, said marketing manager Heather LeMoine. From there, they gauge interest by whether or not person clicks through to the tourism website and how long they spend there.

As a result of data gathered, the Tourism Department will increase its advertising in Chicago and cut its television ads in Madison, Wisc., as well as dialing back spending in Minneapolis, said director Sara Otte Coleman.

“We saw tremendous results when we entered Chicago,” Otte Coleman said.

Tourism will spend just under $2.9 million, similar to last year’s budget.

Within that budget, Otte Coleman said the department will increase digital spending slightly, amounting to about one-third of the advertising dollars. Another third will be spent on television advertising and the final third will be spent on printed advertisements.

The state is decreasing its presence in magazines. Aiming to take advantage of the national stage coming to Minneapolis with Super Bowl LII, the department has paid to wrap a light rail train in North Dakota travel ads and has had a sponsorship ad in U.S. Bank Stadium all season.

Duhamel campaign continues

state fair duhamel

Josh Duhamel displays blue ribbons at the North Dakota State Fair in Minot.

Actor and Minot native Josh Duhamel will again be the face of North Dakota Tourism as the $365,000 contract to use his image continues with the department through 2019. It’s an extension of a previous contract from 2015 that paid the actor $475,000.

duhamel burgum

Gov. Doug Burgum and first lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum speak with actor Josh Duhamel.

The department didn’t have the budget for new video advertisements but Duhamel did shoot new still images this past year in Grand Forks, visiting the farmers market and attending a University of North Dakota hockey game, and Minot, walking through the livestock barns at the North Dakota State Fair and visiting the Scandinavian Heritage Park.

There will be one more photo shoot in the state before the end of the summer, Otte Coleman said.

New campaign highlights small business

Otte Coleman said the department also is starting another, smaller campaign, produced in house, called ND Travel Matters, which focuses on the behind-the-scenes of tourism in the state.

"This program is in its infancy,” LeMoine said.

Laughing Sun Brewery is one of the businesses featured, along with six others from around the state that, while not major attractions, do serve as amenities to those who choose to visit. It’s a social media-based campaign targeted within the state to inform residents.

“These are people who make the industry what it is,” LeMoine said.

Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or


Business Reporter