Why San Francisco Was Flooded With Ads From Illinois

A look around the Caltrain station is bound to be confusing: you’ve arrived in San Francisco, but the ads only talk about… Illinois?

Over the past five months, banners, posters on the walls and pillars shrouded in a blue hue – all branded with the state of Illinois – have popped up around the city, leaving many perplexed. The phrase “The Middle of Everything” and the visual of “Glee” actress Jane Lynch in a beret became commonplace. It’s not just at the Caltrain station in San Francisco; several BART stations, including the Montgomery Street and Powell Street locations, are adorned with advertisements about Illinois. And the ads are not a mistake.

Many Enjoy Illinois advertisements feature actress Jane Lynch at an Illinois location.

Courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism

SFGATE has partnered with TimeZoneOne, the partner public relations firm of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, home to the Illinois Office of Tourism. He explained that despite the 2,000 mile distance, San Francisco is a very intentional marketing choice.

“Spending by travelers from San Francisco to Illinois certainly exceeds that of travelers from other cities coming to Illinois,” said Daniel Thomas, president and CEO of TimeZoneOne. “Therefore, we wanted to show and educate people about Illinois.”

On the San Francisco side, the Illinois ads were nothing more than a standard transaction. “We see a lot of these types of announcements here at BART,” a BART spokesperson told SFGATE via email.

Ads promoting tourism in Illinois cover large portions of the Montgomery BART station, as seen on Tuesday, August 30, 2022.

Ads promoting tourism in Illinois cover large portions of the Montgomery BART station, as seen on Tuesday, August 30, 2022.

Charles Russo

While the ads are inherently out of place, they could work, according to the numbers. “Hotel stays for San Franciscans traveling to Illinois actually increased 100% year-over-year for the month of June,” Thomas said.

The company’s media expenses in San Francisco from May through July cost north of $1.5 million, according to Thomas. That’s a meager amount for Illinois, whose tourism industry attracts more than 110 million visitors a year.

The Illinois Tourism Board has historically focused on ad spending in the Midwest, but its marketing campaign in San Francisco is part of an effort to show that Illinois isn’t just a destination. travel by car. Beyond identifying the potential spending power of West Coast visitors, the ads were placed in the hope that San Francisco would provide Illinois with a more diverse travel crowd, Thomas said.

A commuter waits for a BART train to arrive at Montgomery station on Tuesday.

A commuter waits for a BART train to arrive at Montgomery station on Tuesday.

Charles Russo

“The diversity I’m talking about isn’t just geographic and demographic. It’s really about making sure it has a wide range of visitors, from big-city getaways to small-town experiences,” Thomas added.

Illinois ads have been circulating in San Francisco for months now, and that might not change anytime soon.

“There’s definitely a very strong, positive indication that there’s a strong demand and interest from San Francisco for Illinois,” Thomas said.

Ads promoting tourism in Illinois cover large parts of the Montgomery BART station, as seen on Tuesday.

Ads promoting tourism in Illinois cover large parts of the Montgomery BART station, as seen on Tuesday.

Charles Russo

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