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Local advertisers are joining together with The Bismarck Tribune to launch a "Virtual Tent Event," a campaign that will take place March 15-30, reaching out to those interested in buying motorcycles and boats.

The event will take place in a variety of mediums, including bismarcktribune.com, The Bismarck Tribune and the Tribune Facebook page and other sites via targeted advertising, which places internet ads based on demographics, a consumers' buying history and online search behavior.

Using data gathered from search engines, the Bismarck Tribune is able to get digital ads for the event directly in front of people whose search history shows interest in buying a boat or motorcycle.

"Our marketing now is to appeal to people digitally," said Gary Van Beek, who will be participating in the digital advertising campaign. "We are interested in anything that gets our products in front of interested customers, especially if it is technology driven."

Van Beek, who has owned River City Sports at 3751 E. Rosser Ave. for the past 19 years, pointed to his potential customers, who vary widely in age — from teenagers to those in retirement.

"The one thing they do share is they want to be outside," he said, describing his boating business, and especially the sale of pontoons, as well situated in an area of fisheries, a clean river, sand bars and marinas.

"March is one of our biggest boat-selling months of the year," said Josh Vallely, general manager of Vallely Sport & Marine, a family owned business at 2800 E. Bismarck Expressway, that has been operating since 1974. "We hope this Virtual Tent Event will provide exposure to our dealership."

Vallely, who is taking part in the advertising effort, pointed to several products that are trending in the Bismarck and Mandan area.

"Tritoon pontoons are very popular. We are definitely seeing a trend in families purchasing a tritoon for the 'do everything' boat," he said. "Also, walleye fishing in our state is incredible, so our Lund fishing boats have been a hot seller."

Eric Moritz, co-owner of Moritz Sport & Marine, 2540 Marina Road, agreed that pontoons and fishing boats are popular in the Bismarck and Mandan area.

"It is a great boating area because we've got the river and lots of small lakes as well as Lake Sakakawea," Moritz said, adding that the virtual tent sale provides a good avenue to reach people online.

"Online is getting more and more active," he said. "I need to be there more often."

Gary Adkisson, publisher of the Bismarck Tribune, said this targeted advertising approach is unique for newspapers because it’s more digitally focused, using the paper as a secondary promotion tool to the website, rather than the other way around.

When potential customers come across a promotion for the “Virtual Tent Event,” they’ll be directed to the Tribune’s event page where they can browse through the participating business’ inventory. When they click on a specific item, they’re  taken to that dealer’s website, where they can see what else the dealer has in stock.

At the end of the event, the Tribune will be able to share with the advertisers, the amount of web traffic generated for each item.

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