It’s no secret we are very proud of the “Firsts That Last”SM campaign we created and produced for longtime client Visit North Carolina. Now we’ve learned that the campaign has earned the pinnacle achievement in destination marketing, earning a Mercury Award from the National Council of State Tourism Directors and the U.S. Travel Association for Best Branding and Integrated Marketing Campaign among states with marketing budgets over $10 million.  

“Firsts That Last” won top honors over two other finalists backed by highly regarded agencies: “Oregon, Only Slightly Exaggerated,” developed by longtime Nike agency Wieden+Kennedy; and Michigan’s “Pure Passions” created by McCann, one of the world’s largest and most storied ad agencies. 

“It’s especially rewarding for this work to be recognized against such well-regarded campaigns with significantly larger budgets,” says LGA SVP/Director of Travel Recreation Brands Scott Gilmore. “We’re proud of the long-standing partnership with our colleagues at Visit North Carolina that allowed this campaign to be so successful.” 

“Firsts That Last” features real-life travelers making their first visit to North Carolina and the rich, captivating first-time experiences they have on their trips.  Elements include short films documenting first-time trips, compilation TV spots, print ads, online video, digital executions and more. It’s also accompanied by a dedicated section on VisitNC.com highlighting how visitors can experience similar trips of their own.  

Traveler response has been strong, with site traffic in target media markets up 85% during the initial 2018 run, which is 17 times the nationwide growth rate. People also spent more than 1.9 million minutes watching the film content, averaging nearly 80% duration viewed, and the campaign generated a 1.9 times Arrival Lift as soon as 30 days after launch – meaning those who saw it were almost twice as likely to visit North Carolina than those who didn’t. 

The campaign has garnered considerable acclaim since it first launched in the spring of 2018. In addition to the just-announced Mercury Award, “Firsts That Last” has earned recognition at the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International’s Adrian Awards and was honored by our peers at the Charlotte AAF Awards.  

But the real winner has been North Carolina tourism, which saw record visitor spending in 2018 due in part to the innovative and inspiring campaign. Of course, the state’s hundreds of miles of unspoiled beaches, seemingly endless mountain views and vibrant, culturally diverse cities probably helped, too.