Adweek: Virginia Gov on Virginia Is For Lovers

AdvertisingRICHMOND – Adweek has a great Q&A with Virginia’s Governor Tim Kaine, on the 40th anniversary of the Virginia is for Lovers ad campaign. Great insights into its birth, and where the campaign is going. It’s on their site with ads posted timeline style on their Adfreak blog.

Amusing that Kaine is in the governor’s office now as his father-in-law, Gov. Linwood Holton, helped push the campaign through. Holton is the politician most associated with it, though it came from the Martin & Woltz agency.

The genius of the campaign was that it was racy for its time. Virginia Tourism’s Alisa Bailey says on their Youtube video that the slogan is “often misunderstood” and that it was initially for lovers of different things. That may well be true, but the reason why folks loved it was because it was modern, and not really about history. It hinted at free sex. Nah, it promised it. Yes, it was smart. But mostly, it indicated that if you came to Virginia, you could get some, and Virginia was in the 1960s thought of as being a state where you were least likely to get action.

I think I recall some bosom in the television commercials, but I could be confusing it with that 1970s Sheraton commercial with the hot woman coming out of the water in a tight shot of a tightly fitted wet bathing suit. On this page, one of the first print ads from the Adweek Adfreak blog.

A bit from the official history:

The idea came from a creative team headed by George Woltz of Martin & Woltz Inc., a Richmond-based advertising agency. According to Martin, a $100-a-week copywriter named Robin McLaughlin came up with an advertising concept that read, “Virginia is for history lovers.” For a beach-oriented ad, the headline would have read, “Virginia is for beach lovers,” for a mountains ad, “Virginia is for mountain lovers,” and so on.

Martin thought the approach might be too limiting. Woltz agreed, and the agency dropped the modifier and made it simply “Virginia is for Lovers.” The idea was that whatever people love most in a vacation, whatever they are most passionate about, Virginia was the ideal destination.

Virginia is for Lovers was considered bold and provocative, but it was also just plain smart from a marketing perspective. It planted a seed – a new image of a more exciting Virginia.

In Bailey’s YouTube interview, she mentions that they are really targeting Baby Boomers with the new campaign. Nothing wrong with nostalgia, but we do think that the state might be best to sell the state first to 20 year olds; as we have learned with Facebook, Boomers slavishly follow youth. And we are not ones to want so much sex in everything (and we hate “edgy”), but if you are going to do Virginia is for Lovers as a slogan, it needs to have some breast!

Another thing we don’t understand. We know that you have to bid out your advertising, but we wonder why Dave Martin’s Brandsync and/or his former agency The Martin Agency are not working on the campaign. It would be as if you hired out Mickey Mouse’s 50th anniversary to Warner Brothers.

Most people don’t remember that the state ditched the campaign in the 1980s, and then brought it back. I wish I could recall what the interim slogan was, but Virginia Is For Lovers was totally de-emphasized, only to be brought back with a new version of the song by Robbin Thompson.

Today, the slogan functions much like Maxwell House’s “Good to the Last Drop” where it is a master slogan with a secondary slogan attached to it. The new second slogan is “Live Passionately” and we don’t think of Virginia as a passionate brand; that’s like Venice or Paris.

We wish they would make the original commercials easily available online.

If you want a Virginia is for Lovers T-shirt, please don’t be too disappointed by the horrid looking Virginia is For Lovers licensed merchandise store. It’s an ugly website, wretched and uninteresting. Virginia Tourism did an RFP fairly recently on it, and I was hoping they would do better in licensing the brand. It looks more like an unlicensed site. And we wonder what good it is that the state of Virginia is charging $1 for bumperstickers? The old idea was that they gave them away like crazy, by the thousands, at visitor centers so kids would put them on the back of parents’ cars and do some free advertising. I know Virginia has a $2 billion deficit but they really ought to give them away.

Oh, and please do visit Virginia and their website Virginia.org. We have it on some good authority that you CAN actually get some action there.

2 Comments

  1. It appears Kaine got a detail wrong in the interview. If the state released the slogan in March, 1969, then the Dixiecrat Mills Godwin sat in the Executive Mansion, not Holton.

    In fairness, Holton promoted the slogan the next year, wearing a button to a governor’s conference and deserves some credit.

    And yes, “Live Passionately” does not fit the Old Dominion. I think of timeless love with Virginia, not some fling.

  2. I was the groom in that photo, with a number of my W&M Phi Kappa Tau fraternity brothers in the background along with others who we didn’t know. The bride worked at Jamestown. It was shot in the church at the Jamestown Fort, but for all you see of it, it could have been shot in the A&P. The photographer – Steve Toth – spent hours shooting what seemed to be the same thing.

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