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Updated: Nov 3, 2020

When I first started writing ads, I turned to a book called Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, the copywriter’s equivalent of a self-help tome. In one chapter, the author admits, “Radio is hell, but it’s a dry heat.” A bit of gallows humor for the tricky terrain of radio, which holds a special distinction from most other mediums — all sound, no visuals, at least in the terrestrial form.

All that’s to say, writing for radio is hard. And it’s no less tall a task in the midst of a pandemic, which has knocked the tourism industry back on its heels. With that in mind, Explore St. Louis asked Darling for a radio campaign. And while we view every assignment as an opportunity, we knew how important it was to send the right message for this client, in this climate.

The assignment: three, thirty-second spots that encourage St. Louisans to plan a staycation. A different tact given their usual target audience of non-locals in a 250 mile radius. But with decreased travel intent, and lower prices, they needed to tap a new market as quickly as possible.

In concepting for radio, I’ve always found the best ideas appear after you've covered the wall in crazed scribbles, like something out of A Beautiful Mind. So, what do we know about our audience? They need a vacation. They’re limited in their options. They might be hesitant about flying or going through airport security. And given all that, they may opt for a road trip instead.

What do we know about St. Louis? As a recent transplant, I can attest that this place is overrun with treasures worthy of a city five times its size. There’s too much to do, eat and see for one lifetime. The value of St. Louis isn’t a hard sell. And most people here would freely admit they haven’t seen it all. Perhaps, they just need a reminder, and a few bucks off.

Here’s where we landed with the help of producer Tim Gebauer from Electropolis and award-winning voice talent Adrian Petriw.


"Can't Do That"

"There Yet"

Some say, Adrian and the GPS still bicker to this day.

In addition, we’ve begun rolling out an extension of this campaign in social media, playing on the distances many are willing — but don’t have to go — for a vacation.

“St. Louis is more than a great place to visit. It’s also a great place to live. So, why not explore the beauty on our doorstep?”

-Brian Hall, Chief Marketing Officer, Explore St. Louis

A lot has changed since April, when we first started talking about the pandemic and its effects on marketing. The great toilet paper shortage is a distant memory, and we’ve learned a lot about adjusting our message to the new normal.

Here’s hoping this campaign encourages us all to explore safely, enjoy our surroundings, and listen a little more closely to that small, robotic voice inside our phones.


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