Back in 1969, it was a playfully controversial tagline. Today, one small tweak turned it into a statement of tolerance and solidarity in an increasingly divided America.
The Martin Agency of Richmond, Va., responded to the violence and hatred displayed in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend by telling as many people as possible that its home state is for everyone.
Copywriter Robin McLaughlin helped develop “Virginia Is for Lovers” nearly 50 years ago (when Martin was still known as Martin & Woltz) after running through variations on “Virginia is for…”
The line, which was inducted into New York’s Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame by popular vote in 2009, is now widely recognized as America’s longest-running state tourism slogan.
“You can imagine how provocative that might have been in 1969,” said Dean Jarrett, chief communications officer at The Martin Agency. But on Sunday, employees looking for a way to join the conversation surrounding the events of the past week came to the conclusion that it was more relevant than ever.
They tweaked the classic tagline to read “Virginia Is for Everyone” and added the hashtag #standforlove to emphasize that, contrary to widely circulated images of torch-wielding white supremacists and violent clashes between protesters and counter-protesters, Virginia is a place that welcomes all visitors.
“A lot of people in Virginia and across the country were shocked by what happened in Charlottesville last weekend,” Jarrett said, “and this is one little way to get a positive message out there.”
The Martin Agency no longer leads the Virginia Tourism Corporation business, which went to nearby BCF in 2006. But the two parties have remained in contact, and Jarrett said the Corporation quickly agreed to let The Martin Agency use the classic logo—which has been through some cosmetic changes in recent years—for both a homepage takeover and an impromptu sign outside its headquarters.
“They felt, for this reason, it was worth it,” Jarrett said. Both Martin and the Virginia Tourism Corporation then used the #standforlove hashtag on Instagram.
“I think it has really been good for our employees,” he added, “and we’re hoping that it gets spread around organically. The most important thing is that it represents a more tolerant, inclusive voice.”