Virginia is for Lovers. This popular slogan is almost synonymous with the state of Virginia. People far outside of the Old Dominion are familiar with it, even if they know nothing else about the state. So where did this slogan and its accompanying logo come from?
Origins of Virginia is for Lovers
The year was 1969. The place: Richmond, Virginia. The Virginia State Travel Service had engaged the services of the Martin and Woltz, Inc. advertising agency to develop of new tourism campaign. The Travel Service—now the Virginia Tourism Corporation—wanted to bring more people, especially young people, into Virginia. They needed a campaign that would position Virginia as a destination for the new generation. And what did young people in 1969 like? Love, of course. The Summer of Love was barely past. The Beatles released “All You Need Is Love” that year. Erich Segal’s wildly popular novel Love Story was on the verge of publication. Yes, “love” was certainly in the air in 1969.
The original idea for the campaign came from a copywriter named Robin McLaughlin on George Woltz’s team. In its early form, the idea was for a series of different slogans highlighting different tourism locations and activities. Virginia is for Beach Lovers would be used for beach vacation advertising. Virginia is for Mountain Lovers would be used for the Blue Ridge and its many hiking trails. Virginia is for History Lovers would be for any of the hundreds of historic battlefields and buildings. The list, obviously, goes on. Woltz and Martin thought that this was a bit too complicated, though. They decided to take out the modifiers and create one simple, all encompassing slogan: Virginia is for Lovers.
This new, streamlined slogan also had the benefit of seeming a bit racy, which would appeal to the younger target audience, without really being inappropriate. There are all kinds of love, after all, and Virginia was throwing open the doors to all kinds of lovers. The first ad featuring the slogan ran in a 1969 issue of Modern Bride. The slogan has maintained its connection to romance since the beginning, inspiring countless couples to consider Virginia as a wedding or honeymoon destination.
Virginia is for Lovers Today
Today, more than 40 years since its inception, the Virginia is for Lovers slogan is still going strong. In 2009, the year of its 40th anniversary, the campaign was inducted into the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame. Forbes also named it one of the top ten tourism marketing campaigns that year. It’s clear that the iconic status of the slogan is recognized far beyond the state’s borders.
Indeed, the Virginia is for Lovers campaign is responsible for a good portion of the state’s $21.5 billion—with a B—annual tourism revenue (as of 2013). The slogan has also given back generously to its creators. Martin and Woltz, Inc. became the Martin Agency, and the Virginia tourism campaign was one of the first campaigns to spark major interest in the agency at the national level.
Building off of the popularity of the Virginia is for Lovers slogan, the Virginia Tourism Corporation is currently engaging potential visitors with their “Live Passionately” campaign. This campaign builds off of the original intent of the slogan. Virginia is who love things: history, hiking, water sports, etc. In other words, people who have a passion for whatever it is they want to do, should come to Virginia to pursue it.
The original logo is still as fresh as ever, though. Earlier this year, a new sign was unveiled outside of Dulles International Airport featuring the slogan and well-known imagery, replacing the usual cardinal and dogwood images of most welcome signs around the state.
Virginia is also making history by putting out the metaphorical welcome mat for all kinds of lovers. Last year, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced an LGBT tourism task force. LGBT Americans spend an estimated $100 billion each year on travel, and Virginia wants to bring more of those tourism dollars into the state.
Virginia is for Lovers in Pop Culture
The slogan has even made its way into popular culture. Season 6 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks wrote a song called “Virginia is for Lovers” that appeared on her self-titled debut album in 2007. The slogan also makes an appearance in “Killer Parties” by the Hold Steady. The song appears on the band’s 2004 album Almost Killed Me.
The Virginia is for Lovers logo has been influencing pop culture since long before the new millennium, however. You might be surprised to know that Virginia is for Lovers predates New York City’s iconic “I Heart New York” logo by nearly a decade. Virginia’s “lovely” campaign is credited with inspiring the New York campaign. But we Virginians don’t mind one bit. Bless your heart, there’s plenty of “love” to go around.
What kind of “lover” are you? Don’t forget to like and share!
Photos: Elvert Barnes, Daniel Lobo, Taber Andrew Bain