Governor wants tourists to love Virginia

Catherine Leth

Capital News Service

In 1969, a new advertising firm in Richmond, later known as the Martin Agency, gave birth to the slogan Virginia is for Lovers. The resulting ads charmed young Americans in search of adventure and went on to become one of the nation’s most successful tourism campaigns.
Now, 42 years later, Gov. Bob McDonnell has announced the revival of the Virginia is for Lovers television crusade, which has been dormant for almost five years.
McDonnell and Alisa Bailey, president of the Virginia Tourism Corp., debuted a 30-second commercial Monday that is scheduled to air in New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, as well as in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina and three cities in Ohio.
“It’s very important we have a very visible outreach, and there’s no better way to do it than through television,” McDonnell said. “It’s time for Virginia to get back on TV and reach potential travelers as they start planning spring and summer vacations.”
McDonnell said the $9 million campaign, which targets young families, is an “extraordinary investment.” He cited statistics that Virginia gets a $5 return for every dollar spent promoting tourism.
“That’s why I pushed last year to be able to ask the General Assembly, as part of our overall jobs package, to be able to invest in tourism marketing in order to promote economic development,” McDonnell said.
The General Assembly allotted $3.6 million last year for the campaign, and the rest was covered by private funds. McDonnell said money for tourism is part of his effort to create jobs – the industry supports 240,000 employees in Virginia.
He called it a “sore subject” with current legislators and said he will propose budget amendments giving them another chance to vote on funding measures.
“There are very few economic developments that get this kind of bang for the buck,” the governor said.
The locations for the commercial were chosen based on where tourists often came from in the past. McDonnell said he hopes New England residents troubled by gas prices will choose to visit Virginia rather than states farther away, like Florida.
The Commercial: Love
The 30-second spot has panning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Monticello, Virginia Beach and other prominent Virginia locations. An upbeat song guides viewers through the shuffling shots, and the word “love” is artfully inserted into the footage occasionally.
The commercial will be accompanied by print and Web campaigns with similar images of families enjoying Virginia’s major attractions.
The Slogan’s History
The Martin Agency, then called Martin and Woltz, had been in business for four years when a copywriter began using phrases like Virginia is for Mountain Lovers and Virginia is for Beach Lovers in advertisements.
Shortly after, David Martin coined the more general slogan, Virginia is for Lovers. It appealed to young people who were promoting love as a form of social activism during the onset of the Vietnam War. The first ad containing the slogan was in Bride’s Magazine in 1969.
In 2009, Forbes Magazine named the Virginia is for Lovers campaign as one of the top 10 travel campaigns in the nation.

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