Imagine meeting an individual for a blind date.
Then, imagine going on a 390-mile road trip with that blind date.
And, imagine the entire trip being filmed.
That’s the concept for a marketing campaign for Illinois Tourism, to show there’s more to the Land of Lincoln than the Windy City.
The premise is simple. Matchmakers from the state’s tourism department, along with gurus from a national marketing company, narrowed a field of possible individuals to take the trip.
The winners: a 23-year-old, named Brittany, from Florida and 27-year-old Sam from Nashville.
During a weekend in May, the duo met for the first time on a bridge crossing the Chicago River in the heart of downtown Chicago, hugged, hopped in a Jeep and jetted out of the city, traveling the state’s backroads and byways.
Film crews followed, shooting unscripted scenes at some of the state’s hidden gems, which ended up as four separate advertising spots that will air on digital sites, like Spotify.
As I read a Chicago Tribune article outlining the advertising adventure, I couldn’t stop thinking of my first date with Scott.
No, it wasn’t a blind date.
On a sweltering Saturday afternoon, we met in Bartlett, hugged, hopped in his white Geo Metro and jetted out of town, venturing on a road trip around all the hot spots in Wheeler and southeastern Holt counties.
After a stop for refreshments at a local convenience store, we headed to Lake Ericson.
While a walk along a white sandy beach sounded like a good idea, the water was too high and nothing but a strip of muddy goo trailed the edge of water.
Instead, Scott showed me a spot below the dam, where just a few weeks earlier, his swim trunks snagged on a tree and he narrowly escaped the water’s murky grasp.
We studied the cabins and wondered if it would be fun to bring all our kids together for a weekend getaway.
From there we returned to Bartlett and checked out the Mignery sculptures located near the courthouse.
Did I want to tour the historical society museum? He could make a phone call.
Back on the road, we checked out the Stone House, stopped and visited with one of his long-time friends and ended up near Chambers, where he ordered dinner.
I wanted a salad. He insisted I eat steak. After one bite, I handed the dinner plate to him, he offered his salad bowl as a peace offering.
Throughout that afternoon and evening, we talked about work and family, goals and ambitions, Nebraska landscape and Husker football.
It was relaxing and fun.
If you think about it, first - or even second or third - dates resemble a marketing campaign. You’re presenting you at your best, with moments of raw candor combined with sneak peeks of you not in your finest moment.
Like when a carnivore orders a rare steak for a vegetarian.
Luckily, in our case, the film crew stayed home.