you will not be-leaf this (I didn’t)


This is advertising at its most painful.vermont seeing_logo


The state of Vermont is using the following line in their advertising to generate interest in tourism: “Seeing is BeLeafing”


Whew <insert deep sigh here>.


Let’s get several communication Truths out of the way.


–          Effective communication <and that includes advertising> means using real words to gain attention, educate and create interest. If you cannot do it with real words than get someone who can. There are thousands of words in the English language at your fingertips. If you cannot find one or two … or even a baker’s dozen … words to help you make your point in a compelling way then, well, find another career.



–          You cannot make up words. The two exceptions to this would be (a) if you are Mary Poppins, i.e., supercalifragilisticexpialidocious … or (b) you come up with something like ‘twerking’ <which I am still not sure what it means but I am hoping I haven’t inadvertently done it at some point … or maybe … well … if I did actually do it I found it pleasurable in some way>.

Anyway. You cannot make up words.



–          As a corollary to the last thought … you cannot bastardize existing words. As in ‘manipulate the correct spelling to create a play on the word.’

Why? Because if you have to spell it out for people to understand, not only is not clever, it is just stupid. Oh. And it looks stupid <despite the fact you have convinced yourself it is clever>.



Now that we have the truths out in the open.


This is a really stupid line.

Ok. A really stupid non-word … ‘BeLeafing’?




In my pea like brain I am hoping that the agency that developed this campaign for Vermont had it shoved down its throat because someone’s wife or kid in the state government thought of it and it became impossible to stop that train once it got going.


But I imagine it was more likely a bad idea presented amongst some good ideas where someone without a clue jumped on it as a ‘big idea’ and then they put it up for a vote <or some research> and gobs of people thought it was “cute” or “clever” and “communicated our beautiful leaf season.”



Good advertising doesn’t get voted on … only bad or mediocre advertising.



And it is too bad Vermont used this line because tactically this is a really really nice tourism campaign.


They have really nice video Foliage Reports which give potential visitors a look at fall in Vermont.

They have a really nice video showcasing dozens of scenic sites on a statewide tour of the ‘best and brightest leaf-peeping locales’ meeting foresters, artists, farmers, general store clerks and many more Vermont characters along the way.


vermont websiteHeck.

The TV commercial is nice <with a very nice use of a simple website ‘’>.


Seeing is BeLeafing tourism TV:


<oops: there is a double whammy faux pas in that this commercial rolls into a 4 minute video on Vermonters where they use an ellipse < … > in a super as a dangling thought. As a reminder, ellipses are for lazy advertising writers … and lazy writers like me. Make a statement and place a period. Simple as that. An ellipse will not build ‘intrigue’ and leave – or ‘Leaf’ – people hanging on the edge of their seats waiting for the next thing you have to say in your advertising. Bottom line. Don’t use ellipses in advertising headlines. >


By the way.

The 4 minute video itself is very well done with a great thought – “Vermont – The people you meet here bring the experience to life.”


Vermont deserves better than this wacky line.


While it is a spectacularly beautiful state it is even more so in fall foliage season.

With the highest percentage of maples trees in New England, one-third of which are sugar and red maples responsible for producing intense red hues, Vermont has the most vibrant fall foliage in the northeast.


As the tourism people tell you ad nausea:

As Vermont is 76 percent forested and home to more than 50 state parks, leaf peepers can view expansive foliage across more than 300,000 acres of state-owned forests complemented by farm valleys, towns and waterways. In the early stages of fall foliage, the best colors can generally be found in higher elevations, the northern sections of the state, and in wetter low-lying areas, where swamp maples bring an early splash of crimson.vermont why



There are two things which are pretty basic if you are not an advertising hack.


You avoid what Bob Dylan referred to as ‘false rhymes.’

<try ‘believing’ and ‘beleafing’ as a very bad example>


You don’t make words up.

<try ‘BeLeafing’ as a prime example>.




Mostly because I like to actually offer ideas rather than just tear down other people’s ideas … here is a thought for Vermont tourism.

<albeit I will admit I have not thought about this much>


The quick thought starter idea I offer would be kind of challenging to put together but seeing as I wouldn’t have to put all the pieces into motion I can say whatever I want to say.


Dear Vermont … here you go,


While I wouldn’t use Robert Frost’s epitaph – “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” – strategically <or lets suggest it as  a brand character thought> that line perfectly summarizes Vermont.

<note: Poet Robert Frost is buried in Bennington, Vermont. His epitaph quotes the last line from his poem “The Lesson for Today”>



I went to high school there and it is a beautiful mix of wonderful people having a lover’s quarrel with the world.

That is part of the charm of the state and the people.


Where I would start.

Classic curmudgeonly.

Robert Frost was kind of known as a cranky guy. Meet some of rural Vermonters and … well … suffice it to say … they are lovably cranky.  And that is okay. It is even okay for tourism to pull out the likeable threads of that aspect <and they kind of do that in their 4 minute video on the sites and people>.

I first bring up Frost because he was a wonderful wordsmith and I would be tempted to borrow some of his words <just don’t ask me which ones at the moment>.


Now comes the counterpoint to Frost.


Morgan Page.

A young 30something international electronica DJ from Burlington Vermont.


Say you use something like his song “in the air” <which conveniently has some wonderful lines naturally tying into a leaf Fall season … “Im feelin’it. I’m feelin’ vermont welcome signa change, I’m feelin’ it in the air… I’m feelin’ a change in the air” >:


In the Air:



That would certainly be the opposite of good ole Robby Frost.


I am tempted to suggest if Vermont could combine a cranky talented creative guy and an internationally hip creative guy with some classic Vermont Fall vacation footage you would probably have a fairly interesting compelling and intellectually thoughtful campaign.



And it would be very representative of the small complex state.



And you wouldn’t have to make up any words.



Go Catamounts <University of Vermont>.

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Written by Bruce