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South Dakota Tourism Drops Lawrence and Schiller, Engages Marketers from NYC, Chicago, Denver, and Salt Lake City

KELO-TV reports that the Department of Tourism has issued its big new contracts for luring visitors to South Dakota. All four contracts are going to out-of-state companies:

After a competitive request for proposal process (RFP), the South Dakota Department of Tourism has chosen to establish partnerships with four advertising and public relations firms beginning July 1, 2022. The following four agencies have been selected through the RFP process:

  • Karsh Hagan for lead creative branding, traditional & digital media, and activations
  • Love Communications for facilitating the cooperative marketing strategy and consumer insights
  • Lou Hammond Group for public relations
  • Two by Four for social media, email marketing, and website development

…The length of each contract is three years, with the option of two (2) one-year renewals [SD Department of Tourism, press release, 2022.05.19].

Karsh Hagen is a Denver company. Love HQ is in Salt Lake City. LHG is based in New York City and has offices in Atlanta, Charleston, Denver, Houston, and Tampa. Two by Four works in Chicago.

Rapid City marketer Robert Sharp tells KEVN-TV that he finds it (reporter’s words) “baffling that the state can’t find marketing talent in its own borders to promote what South Dakota has to offer.” But according to Senator Linda Duba (D-15/Sioux Falls), the state didn’t get much in-state interest: only one South Dakota company responded to Request for Proposals #2475, current contract-holder Lawrence and Schiller of Sioux Falls.

This is not the first time the state has contracted with out-of-state companies to market South Dakota’s tourism opportunities. When the state last bid out its major tourism marketing jobs in 2017, it selected three companies out of ten applicants. Three South Dakota companies applied; one, Lawrence and Schiller, got picked, along with MMGY Global of Kansas City, Missouri, and Miles Partnership of Lakewood, Colorado.

Open.SD.Gov, list of bidders and contract winners for Department of Tourism 2017 RFP, retrieved 2022.05.21.
Open.SD.Gov, list of bidders and contract winners for Department of Tourism 2017 RFP, retrieved 2022.05.21.

The contract amounts for Lawrence and Schiller grew from $4,885,750 in FY2018 to $5,000,000 this fiscal year, but federal Coronavirus Relief Funds bumped the FY2021 amount to $16,900,000. MMGY’s contract went from $4,615,000 in the first year, down to $4,400,000 in the second and third years, and up to $4,770,000 in this last year, with a coronavirus bump to $8,084,275 last year. Miles’s contract was relatively tiny: $400,000 each year for five years, except for FY2021, when CRF bumped their take to $425,000.

Lawrence and Schiller has lots of other state contracts—Public Safety, Labor and Regulation, Board of Regents, Governor’s Office of Economic Development…—but none of them are the multi-year eight-figure deals that the tourism contracts are. Lawrence and Schiller’s only current seven-figure state contract is this five-year $6,050,000 contract with Public Safety to remind us not to jerk and drive on our way to dying on Mars.

One could argue that the best people to tell the world what’s so great about South Dakota are the people who love it enough to live here every darn day. But then again, our market is people elsewhere. Those people may be looking for different things than South Dakotans would expect or grasp. Perhaps people from outside South Dakota can better understand the mindset of tourists elsewhere and help them connect those various desires with what they can find in South Dakota. The Department of Tourism has taken that outside-eyes approach with half of its marketing budget for the last five years; we’ll see what happens starting this July when they give outside eyes full responsibility for South Dakota’s tourism advertising.

Related Economic Reckoning: Hiring out-of-state firms, as Governor Kristi Noem did to tell the world that South Dakota is On Meth™, exports some of our tax dollars and denies us the chance to use our own ad spending to stimulate local business on Phillips Avenue and around Main Street Square. But research on advertising return on investment commissioned by SD Tourism from Longwoods International contends that the $4.3 million that South Dakota spent on an ad campaign in 2018 produces 1.3 million trips, $176 million in visitor spending, and $13.2 million in state and local taxes. Thus, each ad dollar, even if sent to New York City, may return $3 in taxes and $41 dollars in business activity.


  1. Eve Fisher 2022-05-21 10:21

    Tell me anyone Ms. Noem has hired who isn’t from out of state. Except, of course, her own relatives.

  2. John 2022-05-21 10:33

    It will be interesting seeing the different perspectives play out. It appeared the L&S stuff was tired, old, and passe – or maybe that was the Tourism Department receiving what that department wanted . . .
    It’s likely this tourism season may be challenging with obscene fuel and food prices and inflation hammering family budgets.

  3. P. Aitch 2022-05-21 13:52

    Your Governor Kristie has solidified a permanent brand on your fair and balanced state. (*satire)
    – In lieu of such extreme branding, 95% of tourist advertising should go toward MAGA’s, rednecks, and middle aged to elderly, white non-conformists.
    i.e., TV shows such as – Hillbilly Handfishin’ – MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 – Bravo’s Real Housewives – Bayou Billionaires (CMT) – Moonshiners (Discovery Channel) – Redneck Island (CMT) – Lady Hoggers (A&E) – Rocket City Rednecks (National Geographic) – Duck Dynasty (A&E) – Swamp People (History – Channel) – Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (TLC) and My Big Redneck Wedding (CMT).

    – Print media isn’t pertinent for obvious reasons. #snicker

  4. Arlo Blundt 2022-05-21 15:37

    The Governor and her tourism department have done a disservice to South Dakota by sending these contracts out of state, no matter what the reputation of these firms are. Sending the contracts out of state contributes to the “brain drain” of young creative talent and does not insure a “quality campaign”. It will take the out of state firms at least a year to get “up to speed” on developing a campaign fotr the “Land of Infinite Variety.”

    Lawrence and Schiller both came out of USD in the 70’s where Lawrence was editor of the student newspaper and Schiller the photographer. Their agency in Sioux Falls has been successful and they have employed young, creative professionals. Media One, was established by young entrepreneurs from Augustana (John Fixdal and Greg Blomberg among others). Over the years Lawrence and Schiller became somewhat “establishment” oriented and Media One was edgier, and a bit more interesting in its campaigns. Both contributed greatly to the health and expansion of enterprise in Sioux Falls and across the state. Both spawned new, creative agencies as employees left to start their own businesses. There remains to be written a history of how the fresh new advertising agencies which have sprung up in Sioux Falls over the past 50 years have spurred on the growth and development of the city.

    The Noem administration could jump start a renewal of this creative engine in our state by using the Tourism Advertising campaign to nurture new, creative agencies in South Dakota and involve the innovative energies and experience of existing agencies throughout South Dakota.. We’ve come a long way from the “Land of Infinite Variety” (a slogan adopted, as I remember by the Joe Foss administration). I don’t think tourism will be well served by hiring, detached, “hired guns” from New York and Chicago.

  5. I Jad 2022-05-21 15:37

    Maybe ad agencies from SD were not interested because of the attitude of State officials and the amount of the expected donations. ‘

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-05-21 16:21

    The problem, PAitch, is that Donald Trump has found that market quite lucrative. He can tell them any old lies, and they’ll open their wallets and buy up all cheap Chinese caps and flags he can print. They are easy dupes. South Dakota could target its tourism advertising to those same people and, with messaging repurposed from Trump and Kristi’s campaign mailings, make a killing. Host more fireworks shows. Fireworks or no, promise tourists rallies with Kristi at Mount Rushmore every weekend. Make shooting galleries where the targets are the books the Rapid City School Board plans to destroy. Expand the Nest Predator Bounty Program to allow tourists to turn in photos of pregnant women whom they suspect of considering abortion. Funnel another grant to the shop where Kristi’s daughter works so they can start a chain of motels across the state staffed entirely by women they’ve rescued from human trafficking so the guests can feel they are doing their Christian duty by helping those poor women get back on their feet with honest work. Entice the tourists to the Buffalo Roundup by releasing some hippies among the buffalo herd and restaging Pamplona’s running of the bulls. The possibilities are endless… but dang, I don’t know if any of those city folk Kristi hired will be able to cook up a marketing plan like that.

  7. sx123 2022-05-21 16:24

    Don’t jerk and drive while on meth would have been a better campaign.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-05-21 16:37

    “Land of Infinite Variety”—that was a Foss idea? Interesting. That phrase was included in the South Dakota flag pledge enacted in 1987. The Secretary of State says we made “The Mount Rushmore State” the official state nickname in 1992 (see SDCL 1-6-16.5 but before that had the nicknames the “Sunshine State”, the “Coyote State”, the “Artesian State”, the “Blizzard State”, “The Land of Plenty”, and “The Land of Infinite Variety.” The current Tourism branding guide does not say anything about “Land of Infinite Variety” or “The Mount Rushmore State”; instead, it focuses on our trusty “Great Faces, Great Places” slogan, which this state press release says came about in 1990.

    Infinite Variety—it seems that’s exactly what Kristi is trying to keep out of our schools, our politics, and our state.

  9. Mark Anderson 2022-05-21 18:24

    Arlo, you really think an old SDSU dropout is going to hire a couple of boys from USD to do advertising for her state?

  10. Grant Sammelson 2022-05-21 18:32

    Did South Dakota years ago hire a company from Canada to publish tourism maps or guides?! :) :) If so, was there a connection like maybe a past resident of SD was the owner of the company. It was between 2015 & 2018. They were available at the rest areas in SD & the information was on them. Also as I recall rest areas include federal dollars so it could have been them not SD?!

  11. Arlo Blundt 2022-05-21 18:47

    Cory-my recollection comes from a dinner table conversation with my grandfather, Ed Oddy, publisher and editor of the Woonsocket News for over 30 years. He was twice president of the South Dakota Press Association and served as host for Calvin Coolidge during one week of his presidential visit to the Black Hills in 1927. He also served on the boards of various tourism and “good highways” organizations including, as I recall, the “Custer Battlefield Highway” commission. He was a booster and was there at ground zero of the tourism movement in South Dakota.

    During the conversation the “new” motto, “Land of Infinite Variety” came up. Ed said, “I don’t know, Infinite Variety takes in a lot of ground. That would include dust storms and grasshoppers.”

    My grandmother said, “I like the lakes up by Webster, but if I were them, I’d put my eggs in one basket and promote the Black Hills.”

  12. grudznick 2022-05-22 08:17

    We should not be trying to attract more out-of-state tourists to the Black Hills. They can go to Webster or the Falls of the Big Sioux if they like but not here.

  13. Mark Anderson 2022-05-22 17:54

    Yeah Grudz, that three month work year is just too much.

  14. Richard Schriever 2022-05-22 20:50

    My good friend and USD roommate, Mr. Jeff Severson of Madison, SD origins used to, and sometimes may still call SD a “Variety of Infinite Land”.

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