It's pretty easy to ridicule marketing campaigns, especially when the message is intended to sell a city or region to outsiders. Minneapolis never was nor ever will be "Minneapple,'' but the city tried to sell itself as the Midwest's New York in the 1980s. Many of us still cringe when the name pops up.

That's why it's so refreshing to see an intelligent, strategic campaign emerge for the Twin Cities. "Minneapolis St. Paul: More to Life'' grew out of work started three years ago by Meet Minneapolis, the city's convention bureau. The campaign has received enthusiastic support from Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who will speak at today's launch event at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The campaign will kick off in advance of the Republican National Convention in September, but it's more than an ad drive to lure tourists and conventions to the Twin Cities. That's what makes it a unique and worthwhile effort. One of the key goals of the campaign is help local companies recruit from other states, where research shows our image is cast in stereotypes that are more "Fargo'' than cosmopolitan. With a worker shortage looming in Minnesota, the ability of our growing businesses to recruit talent from across the country is critical.

Research for the campaign found that national perceptions of the Twin Cities don't match reality, and that local residents are partly responsible for perpetuating stereotypes because we too often adopt a low-profile, self-deprecating approach to selling ourselves. That creates the image of a cold, boring metro area with little appeal to those who've never been here. Although we might believe our fly-over image is a thing of the past, outsiders don't think the Twin Cities are especially sophisticated or unique. For example, 15 percent of those surveyed described the Twin Cities as "cultural and artistic,'' compared with 64 percent who applied that label to Chicago.

Campaign planners describe Minneapolis and St. Paul as facing both a problem and an opportunity. The problem lies in perceptions, and the opportunity is the reality that can contradict those perceptions, if given a chance.

A powerful roster of local companies and civic organizations have donated resources to develop the campaign, and media organizations have committed valuable ad space and broadcast time.

There's no question our civic self-esteem can use a boost. The "More to Life'' campaign can be a step in the right direction.