Why Richard Branson Wrote an Ad for South Dakotans Only

Seeking sailors for his premium cruise line

Hey, South Dakotans, Richard Branson says its time to hit he high seas already! 

According to Sir Richard, folks from 49 of the 50 states have booked trips on his new adult-by-design luxury cruise line, Virgin Voyages. South Dakota is the lone holdout. 

What gives? Mount Rushmore's great, but maybe try something different for your next getaway. 

To lure cruisers—or "sailors," to use Virgin-speak—Branson himself penned a full-page letter in yesterday's New York Times. (Sorry, Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, no ad dollars for you!) He opens with "Ahoy" and notes that on average South Dakotans travel less often than most other Americans. 

"I've always been an advocate of the benefits travel provides—it opens the mind and heart, bolsters health, brings us closer to loved ones, inspires us, and can be life changing," he says. 

Here's the complete text:

Now, a Caribbean cruise on Virgin Voyager's Scarlet Lady costs plenty of clams, but the line's offering a prize package for the first South Dakotan who signs up. In a nod to the state's area code, that particular sailor—can we please just call them "cruisers," RB?—gets $605 to spend on the ship, two first-class airline tickets to Miami (the vessel's home port), a free night at a local hotel, plus a limo ride to the dock.

C'mon, landlubbers, Virgin even baited the hook with these punny in-state billboards: 

"Sioux … ya gonna book or what?" Sea what they did there!?

"South Dakotans over the age of 18 are the target audience for this campaign, since the Scarlet Lady is adult-by-design," a Virgin rep tells Muse. "We also think this campaign shows a bit of our Virgin Voyages personality, and we think other potential sailors will enjoy it as well. We consider our experience rebellious luxe, which means we are building an elevated holiday for our sailors that aims to deliver quality without being too formal or stuffy."

Rebellious luxe? Sounds like mutiny! Better go camping in the Badlands instead.

UPDATE: About 36 hours after the campaign launched, Virgin booked its first guests from South Dakota. Your work's done on this one, RB. It should be easier luring S.D. travelers to your other new venture. After all, they have affinity for wide open spaces.

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.