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Geofencing Montana: Turning $25K into $6.9MM

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For those few in the know, Montana offers some of the best skiing in the US. But what about everyone else? Many simply settle for substandard slopes. Starcom MediaVest Group found that unacceptable! Because of its “undiscovered” status, Montana, the fourth-largest state in the US, was losing visitors to old stand-by ski areas like Vail, Aspen and Salt Lake City. Everyone in the competitive set was using the same advertising tactics: a magazine here, a website there, and a great visual of beautiful people kicking up powder. To complicate things further, many travel advertisers are unable to measure if the consumer actually travelled to the ski destination, making it virtually impossible to calculate return on investment.  

Frustrated by the results, but buoyed by a great product, The Montana Office of Tourism was ready to try an entirely new approach to showcase its awesomeness and separate from the pack. It knew that if it could raise awareness and get into the consideration set, Montana’s ski areas would speak for themselves. 

Montana’s mission was as simple as it was challenging: successfully spread the word about Montana’s spectacular ski destinations; and directly demonstrate how that messaging converted into actual slope traffic.


Skiers are a passionate group and can’t get enough time on the slopes. Typically they are thinking about their next ski trip while they’re skiing. When skiers plan a big trip, they put a lot of time and effort into researching where they want to go and what that location has to offer them.

Additionally, the skiing target is bound to their smartphones. Skiers are 200% more likely than the gen-pop to use their phones to explore and plan trips (MRI 2013 Doublebase).

In order to break the ski adverting mould, targeting consumers who were currently in ski areas was key to markets such as the Midwest where there is a ski population but a comparatively lacklustre ski experience. For example, a skier at a Wisconsin ski resort who was forced to ski down a relatively small hill that was most likely covered with artificial snow would see a Montana advertisement that showed them the experience they could have in the Big Sky state on a colossal mountain covered in REAL snow.

The campaign strategy was to create a closed loop activation framework that enabled the state to capture the data it needed to calculate ROI for the first time ever. Mobile technology proved to be the best way to deliver the Montana message because it can do it all – locate, serve, and track the target while they were on the slopes. By leveraging mobile technology, Montana ads were served to consumers at relevant locations – ski areas, shops, etc that had less than ideal skiing conditions.

The agency was able to track consumers that were exposed to the messaging, in order to literally map their behaviour post-exposure. The convergence of data, targeting and device allowed SMG to measure who saw the ads and determine if they actually visited Montana.


The best way to connect with skiers’ passion is when they were living their passion: on the slopes.  SMG helped Montana identify ski slopes, shops and outdoor retailers throughout the US where ski enthusiasts visited, but had subpar ski slopes. Once the target was identified, it served them a beautiful ad that featured the perfect powder and majestic landscape that can only be found in Montana. It caught them at the perfect moment and showed them that better skiing was available to them.

The next step was crucial and something that had never been done before: SMG geo-fenced the ENTIRE STATE OF MONTANA! Geo-fencing is a technology that allows an advertiser to select a geographic point using latitude and longitude information and then to create a virtual "fence" around that point of a given radius. The virtual barrier allowed the Montana Office of Tourism to track the percentage of people who received a Montana ad and subsequently visited the state during the ski season. Geofencing the state created a closed loop activation framework and was the first of its kind.

The campaign strategy solved three major challenges for Montana: it located the target, it reached them when they were most passionate about skiing, and it provided a clear way to measure ROI.


An estimated $25,000 spend resulted in an incremental $6.9 million in visitor spending in Montana. Montana experienced a 1.7x lift in visitation from those who saw the MT ads and eventually visited the state (Source: PlaceIQ’s Place Visit Rate™ (PVR™) tracking Place Visit Rate). The conversion rate for the custom ski resort targeting was significantly higher. Based on those that saw the ad and then went to Montana, the state says they welcomed an incremental lift of 4,752 visitors, according the PVR Study from Place IQ.

Based on an average trip spend of $1,500 (Average trip spend is sourced from an independent third party: Leisure Trends tracking study on visitation with the Institute for Tourism and Recreation research at the University of Montana), this equates to a return of $276 for every dollar Montana invested in the campaign.

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Montana Office of Tourism
Government/Public Sector
United States
January - February 2014
Starcom Mediavest
Media Channel:
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