KOA ad: Really? Ya gotta be kiddin’ me!


By Chuck Woodbury
Early in my career, when I was an aspiring capitalist, I subscribed to the weekly bible of the advertising industry, Advertising Age

I remember an article about food photography. Two photos were displayed. The first was of a McDonald’s Big Mac from a magazine advertisement. If you were hungry, it made you drool. The burger looked gorgeous, amazing! I’m sure a lot of money was spent on a great photographer with perfect lighting and everything else just right.

Then, beside the photo was a snapshot of another Big Mac, one the article’s author had just purchased at his local McDonald’s. Yikes! What a difference! It was all squished up, and in no way appealing unless you were absolutely starving, in which case a photo of cardboard would look good.

THEN THERE’S KOA. I received an email today from the company pitching fall camping at its parks. You can see the photo above used to illustrate the advertisement. This is the equivalent in the RV world to the first Big Mac as portrayed by the ad agency.

Here’s my campsite at a KOA in Utah. Notice all that space in my “front yard.” Gail and I were such happy campers we danced in the street (in case you can’t tell, that’s a lie!).

The campsite is stunning, the grass cut, everything in place, a checkered tablecloth on the picnic table, and a forest behind — not another camper in sight, pretty much a common sight at a KOA, right?

I just love the couple dancing. Let’s see … I have been RVing for close to four decades and I cannot ever recall seeing a couple dance in front of their campsite. In this photo, even though you can’t see it, they’re likely standing right on the park road. Oh, they are so happy! 

Okay, it’s advertising. That’s what you do if you’re an ad agency, you show the best and hope the image and what it represents will sink into a prospective customer’s subconscious. Then, when they book their next camping adventure, they might think “I want to stay at KOA where everything is so pretty and I can dance in the street.”

Okay, I am being sarcastic. Yes, anyone who has traveled with an RV very long who stays in RV parks, whether KOA or any other, knows scenes like the one pictured above are the exceptions, not the rule. But, really, the dancing couple is just too much! It’s so totally out of touch with reality that it cracks me up. Love it!

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Philip Wood

My experience with KOA is that the name means “keep adding on”. I have been RVing for over three decades and I will only stay at a KOA only if a Walmart in not available and I don’t care to stay at a Wally world. I am that impressed with them.

Cheryl Carr

We stayed at a KOA in Harpers Ferry last year. The campground was nice with a lot of things to do. Unfortunately, when we were there last October most of the things were not available
Including the free breakfast. The rate was $75 a night but they had a special pay for 2 nights get one free. What they did not say was that they also charge a resort fee. I do not remember how much it was. When we asked what the resort fee was for they said it was for the free breakfast ( which was only served on the weekends),the pool (which was closed for the season), and the WiFi. They charged the resort fee even if the services are not available.


Those who have chosen to purchase a large, oversized RV have eliminated the many Federal, State and local parks from their list of usable sites.
KOA’s maybe their only choice, whether or not they like it. There are nice KOA’s. Good example in Gadsden, AL. But others are modified parking lots.


We frequently stop at rest areas and collect brochures. I remember this one particular KOA brochure that advertised a beautiful lake, complete with picture, on the property. We stayed there that night and took a walk. After our walk, we asked the owner where the lake was. It appears that they had told corporate, who supplied the brochure, they had a lake. The actual lake was little more than a swamp. He told us they just used a stock photo and their lake had never looked like the one pictured.


I haven’t stayed @ a KOA since the late 70’s, when the ones I stayed at were nothing more than a open field, and they charged $3.50 a night and a dollar a head for anymore then 4 occupants. There was a dump station at the entrance/exit and that was it. This was in New Mexico and Texas. When I got my next rig in the early 2000’s, I was told by friends that KOA’s overcharged, some were nice, and others were dumps. So I chose @ that time not to pay money to find out which was which. So I have stayed almost anywhere but at a KOA…. I have heard of some nice ones in N.C, PA and NV. Again heresay so don’t take my word for without doing your research.


We are currently on a coast to coast 3 month adventure. We have 39 stops with 35 being KOAs. We have throughly enjoyed the KOA parks to date (half way). They are very clean; staffs are friendly and professional. This compared to a Good Sam site in Montana where we were greeted by a 6’8″ mountain man upon arrival with his first 4 words being “yea you want something?” I’ll take KOA anytime!

Darrel Plummer

Yes, it is a great fantasy! Especially if it happens right after a couple negotiates backing into their RV site…yep, that’s a fantasy. LOL.


We are not fans of KOA’s. The majority of those we have stayed in, because our options were limited, have been old, cramped, and in need of repair or updates. There has only been two exceptions that I can recall. We have camped all of our lives & this is our 6th year fulltiming so we have been around a bit.


We stayed at the Devil’s Tower KOA. They did have a band one night and people danced on the deck. There probably were some also dancing at nearby sites where the music could be heard.

Sherry Zampino

I love this! First off white men in their 60’s don’t dance unless they have had a couple of beers in them, Second “My Girl” would be playing so loud your next door neighbor would be upset, Third the Aud d’ Sewyer scent does not encourage romance. If I remember correctly, McDonalds draw used to be always clean, always courteous and always quick. KOA would do well to follow this line of advertisement because aesthetic they are not.

Anthony Vinson

Dad and I went on a tent trip to Harper’s Ferry, WV. a few years back. It was November and most campgrounds were closed, so we had no choice but to stay there. We were literally THE ONLY tent, staying in a section by ourselves, they charged us $35 for the site. I’ll gladly dry camp before I give my money to KOA.


I dance in front of my RV all the time. Sometimes because I just set myself on fire, but otherwise people just assume i have rabies.

I don’t recall KOA reservation structures, but have seen visitor fees at other private campgrounds.
Reserving maximum occupancy doesn’t seem to count towards that, so I just make the owner happy by NOT having 8 people on my site ALL the time.


They might have been dancing because they didn’t have to stay at a KOA.

Charles Ketchum

For as much as KOA’s cost per night I think they should hire bands so we could dance in the streets. However, the trains passing by might drown out the music.


I always use Google Earth to do a check on prospective Camp Grounds, whether they be KOA or a Mom and Pop Park.

You can get a good feel for the Park with an Aerial Look Down.

If the Park looks cluttered, Spaces crammed together, then it’s probably NOT a good place to stay.

Research is the Key to RVing these days!

Judy Glazier

Guess my experiences are unusual: I’ve seen couples dancing outside their RVs in Montana and in New Mexico – but not at KOAs.


I have stayed at over 40 KOA RV Parks and never seen those dancers but have had the cut grass and table. Most KOA’s are clean and well cared for.