Back in 1969, a Richmond, Virginia-based advertising agency called Martin and Woltz created an ad campaign for the Virginia State Travel Service (now the Virginia Tourism Corporation) that would go on to become one of the most recognized tourism slogans of all time, and what Advertising Age called one of the most iconic ad campaigns in the past 50 years. “Virginia is for lovers.”
It’s a tagline that evokes the exact opposite emotions of seeing the images from Charlottesville over the weekend, and the president’s reaction since. And outside The Martin Agency (formerly Martin and Woltz), agency creatives put a new twist on the classic tagline, adding #standforlove and swapping it on social media with “Virginia is for everyone.”
What started as a sign outside the agency’s front door has been picked up by the Virginia Tourism Corporation on Instagram, aiming to promote a more positive image of the state as soon as possible.
“We know that Charlottesville and the state of Virginia are places we know and love, and we know they’re diverse, inclusive, and welcoming,” says The Martin Agency CEO Matt Williams. “We also know the violence we saw last weekend isn’t what that city or the state is about. ‘Virginia is for lovers’ has always been true, and it’s never been a more relevant message to send.”
The agency, particularly known for its work for long-time client Geico, and this year’s award-winning “The World’s Biggest Asshole” PSA for Donate Life, boasts a diverse group of 400 employees, most from out of state. Williams sent out a companywide memo to remind and reassure them that the terrible events happening just 70 miles away did not represent Virginia.
“We’ve got a 52-year history in Virginia, and we love this state,” says Williams. “When things like this weekend happen, it shakes everyone, and it was important for our people to know that we understand they’re affected by these things, and that we stand with them. We stand with being inclusive and diverse, and it was important they hear that from me.”
Asked if he thinks the events in Charlottesville will affect the Virginia brand, Williams says he hopes that despite all the global coverage, better voices will prevail.
“When something terrible like this happens, one of the reactions is often people who may have otherwise remained quiet about their own convictions around inclusivity and diversity find their voice,” says Williams. “We’ve seen it happen and it’s inspiring. This is not okay. This kind of violence is unacceptable. And these voices are getting louder denouncing it.”