Best Integration of Search Into Cross-Channel Marketing Campaign

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Executive Summary & Overview

True Independent Holding Group was tasked with developing and executing an omnichannel media campaign for Explore Minnesota Tourism’s ‘Find Your True North’ initiative to increase the quality of new and existing audience targeting and lead to higher site engagement. We wanted to target Explore Minnesota Tourism’s many audiences at a national level with the content they wanted to see, where and when they wanted to see it — all with the ultimate goal to drive visits to Minnesota.

To complement our omnichannel approach, we incorporated an innovative, always-on SEM strategy to expand the campaign into new markets by targeting audiences that had already found their “True North.” We created and targeted three custom audience groups, ‘The Hikers,’ ‘The Bikers’, and ‘The Arts & Culture Seekers,’  identified by those with an existing passion for these specific Minnesota activities and a connection to the state. 

As travel decisions are often part of lengthy research and planning processes, campaign success measurement included both short and long-term KPIs and overall brand lift. Short term KPIs included site traffic, new users, and time-on-site, while our long term KPI assed actual state visits. To measure these visits, location-based geofence conversions were used to identify those who were exposed to an Explore Minnesota ad and subsequently entered state borders or traveled to one of the following conversion locations throughout the state — outdoor (biking + hiking trails), Arts & Culture (museums, historical monuments, etc.), and Accommodations (hotels + campgrounds), based on our specific campaign breakouts (General, Hiking, Biking, Arts & Culture). Lastly, a Brand Lift Study and third party market research study were used to measure post-campaign success. 

Utilizing an array of full-funnel tactics, our strategy aimed to build awareness for state tourism, create consideration for those traveling, and motivate people to book their trip to experience Minnesota. National ads featured specific Minnesota locations associated with passion activity, drove to custom, ‘learn more’ landing pages. Additional ads featured other activities the passion groups were interested in. For example, ‘The Bikers’ indexed high for hiking and craft breweries, so ads were run incorporating both.

Content partnerships were developed with relevant, recognizable, brands to create custom content showcasing Minnesota and encouraging consideration of the state as a destination for their passion. For example, we partnered with Pinkbike, a mountain biking site with a global audience, to reach our passion audience.  As part of the partnership, Pinkbike expert mountain bikers and a photographer traveled to Minnesota to experience biking trails and showcase Minnesota’s unique features and history. The resulting two articles, with photos and video footage, were shared on the Pinkbike YouTube Channel and distributed throughout Pinkbike’s social channels and via e-newsletters – all to drive traffic to the content.

Each custom content piece was amplified and promoted to our national niche audience, using channels aligning with the content. All content amplification drove people back to the content partners’ website to ensure the user was given a consistent experience based on click path. A retargeting strategy was deployed, where consumers who reached the partner content were retargeted with Explore Minnesota Tourism niche creative, driving back to relevant content on the Explore Minnesota Tourism website.

Campaign results showed an overall increase in ROI compared to previous years and an increase in brand lift among Minnesotians throughout the funnel. 232 million impressions delivered 2.5 million website visits to increase site traffic 5% and time on site 8%. We successfully tracked nearly 600,000 actual state visits that showed an increase in visitors from states where Explore Minnesota Tourism had not previously advertised, further proving our passion targeting strategy was successful in driving more travel from states throughout the country to Minnesota.





Four TV spots ran across linear and Connected TV featuring four distinct regions of the state and a variety of activities within each area.



To reach consumers in a travel mindset, print ads ran in Delta SKY, Outside Magazine, and Real Simple; spreads during the first month introduced the campaign, and full-page ads delivered frequency and recognition throughout the remainder of the campaign.



An existing partnership with the Minnesota Broadcaster’s Association provided exposure on radio and TV throughout the state of Minnesota. Digital campaigns used display, rich media, interactive video, native, email, and social media tactics to create touchpoints across the entire funnel, from driving awareness about Minnesota’s activities to ultimately taking action and traveling to the state.



An always-on tactic, Search brought all other media elements together with cohesive messaging, audience targeting, and retargeting site visitors and subscribers. Flighting the messaging and ad copy in coordination with other tactics maximized the effectiveness of paid campaigns and the delivery of always-on messaging focused on Hiking, Biking, and Arts & Culture passions to drive awareness and visibility of all other media for astounding campaign success.


The campaign not only drove an increase in site traffic and on-site performance, but was also able to measure nearly 600,000 visitor conversions and increased ROI over previous years.


We successfully met short term KPI goals to increase site traffic, new users, and time-on-site, proving our national campaign strategy was successful in both driving more traffic to the site and engaging users.

● Site Traffic: 5% increase year over year
● New Users: 6% increase
● Time-on-site: 8% increase
● Bounce Rate: 31% decrease in bounce rate illustrates effective targeting
● Tennessee and Wyoming saw an increase in traffic of over 65%.

Additionally, there was an overall increase in traffic from states where Explore Minnesota Tourism had not previously advertised, proving the campaign successfully exposed Minnesota to extremely niche audiences nationally and drove interest to learn more.


During the campaign, we delivered 232MM media impressions and received 2.5MM website visitors.

● 598,000 total geofenced location visitor conversions produced a 0.3% visit rate
● Display Ads generated 47% of overall visitor conversions
● Native ads generated 30% of overall visitor conversions


● Enabled us to measure the effectiveness of a cross-device strategy at the audience level

● Showed the cord-cutting audience saw the highest lift across all channels across the campaign with a 23% lift in awareness, 12% lift in message recall, a 15% increase in research, and most importantly, an astounding 21% in consideration.

● Lift among cord-cutters showed Explore Minnesota successfully used video as a branding placement to drive strong mid to lower funnel action

● Research increased most among those self-reported to seek outdoor entertainment while traveling - illustrating campaign effectively reached the target audience to consider Minnesota as a travel destination

● Saw an increase in brand lift among Minnesotians throughout the funnel showed the campaign was successful in reconnecting with them to consider in-state travel


● Provided an estimate of the volume and value of travel in Minnesota is influenced by paid advertising

● Confirmed the innovativeness of using passion interests to target national audiences by concluding national travelers are more moved by the ads than traditional market travelers.

● Distant travelers are more likely to have no negative associations with Minnesota, but they don’t necessarily consider it as a potential destination.

● Explore Minnesota Tourism as an excellent opportunity to provide details of the experiences available in Minnesota to flesh out the positive perceptions of the state so, over time, Minnesota will be included in more consideration sets and ultimately increase the number of visitors from more distant markets.

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