ANCHORAGE - New billboards promoting Alaska as a must-visit destination feature the jolting reminder to get here before it's too late.
The Alaska Travel Industry Association launched a monthlong campaign Monday in Seattle, Los Angeles and Minneapolis with billboards proclaiming "Alaska B4UDIE" - or Alaska, before you die. The words form a vanity message on a picture Alaska's classic license plates: blue letters against a bold yellow background.
Coordinators of the $180,000 project are hoping to reach folks who consider the northern frontier the trip of a lifetime.
"People say time after time that Alaska is on the list of places they want to go," said association spokesman Dave Worrell. "We want to get people thinking about Alaska now rather than later."
It may seem odd to launch a campaign just as Alaska's long and frigid winter is approaching, but it makes sense to Debbie Reinwand, with Bradley Reid & Associates, an Anchorage-based ad firm working with the nonprofit association. The last few months of the year is when most people start planning their Alaska vacations, she said.
It also may seem strange to attempt to sell Alaska with a few strategically placed words on a simple 14-foot-by-48-foot sign. Most travel ads feature the majesty of the state.
"In 17 years of marketing Alaska tourism, this is the first time we're not featuring wildlife or Alaska scenery," Reinwand said. "This is edgy. We want people to have that 'ah ha' moment, like in, 'Ah ha, I do need to go there."'
Many daredevils are attracted to the state for such death-defying thrills as mountain climbing or extreme backcountry skiing, but organizers don't equate such activities with the new travel theme.
Instead, they've simply applied an increasingly popular marketing strategy: must-do lists.
"'Before you die' is such a common theme today that it's not morbid," Worrell said. "We certainly don't mean it that way. If anything, it's more in a fun spirit."
Beside posting its message on signs, the travel group also has set up a Web site offering trip planning links.