Saturday, September 24, 2022

For the Love of Virginia: The Story of the “Virginia is for Lovers” Slogan

(from right to left) Bill Ward, Ashlee Jones, Andy Harris, Nancy Sheppard, and Elisa Campana of WYDaily/Tide Radio 92.3/Local Daily Media posing with Yorktown’s LOVE sign (File photo)

STATEWIDE — On Valentine’s Day, those in the Commonwealth are in the right place. Why? Because… “Virginia is for Lovers.”

How did this iconic slogan and its equally-recognizable accompanying LOVE signs come to be so identic with Virginia? In this Valentine’s Day special edition of WYDaily’s series, Oddities & Curiosities, we will take a closer look as to how Virginia became the place for lovers.

“Virginia is for Lovers”

In the mid-1960s, Virginia was already known as a tourism destination. In Hampton Roads alone, we boasted five well-known amusement parks that dotted its picturesque shores. From the sparkling beaches to the peaceful mountains, bustling cities to charming rural communities, the Commonwealth seemed to “have it all,” no matter what your interests and desired adventures would be.

In 1969, the Virginia State Tourism Service (VSTS) (this eventually became the Virginia Tourism Corporation) needed to find a way to encourage young folks to become the next generation of Virginia’s tourists. At that time, the height of the post-World War II tourism boom was beginning to wane. The VSTS wanted to emphasize to a younger generation that the Commonwealth wasn’t just a place where their parents took them to visit during their childhoods, but was also somewhere that had things that would interest them as adults.

Richmond-based advertising agency Martin & Woltz was given the task of trying to answer the question as to how to market the Commonwealth to this younger demographic. Robin McLaughlin, a $100-a-week copywriter for the agency, was inspired by 1969’s love-ccentric zeitgeist and the overarching emphasis on the storied history of the Commonwealth. Thus, she came up with the slogan, “Virginia is for History Lovers.”

Did You Know… In 1969, the theme of the year was “love.” Erich Segal’s “Love Story” and Jacqueline Susann’s “The Love Machine” were best selling books, Henry Mancini scored the wildly popular love theme from the “Romeo and Juliet” film, and The Woodstock Music and Art Fair took place that August.
Virginia is for Lovers has been the enduring slogan of the Commonwealth for over 50 years (Wikipedia)

However, Virginia isn’t just about its history. What about those heading out to the mountains? Well, then it could be adapted to “Virginia is for Mountain Lovers.” And what about those wanting to visit the beach? “Virginia is for Beach Lovers.” In fact, this slogan was adapted to whatever part and aspect of the Commonwealth in which the VSTS wanted to emphasize.

The problem with that? By only focusing on one specific aspect of Virginia per campaign, Martin & Woltz felt that this limited the broad scope as to what the Commonwealth truly had to offer. It was then that the agency decided to shorten the slogans to the singular, “Virginia is for Lovers.”

The new motto for the Commonwealth was debuted, fittingly, in a 1969 issue of the magazine, “Modern Bride.”

For nearly 53 years, the iconic slogan has endured the test of time. In fact, it is so recognizable that, on Sept. 21, 2009, it was added to the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame and now sits along side Budweiser’s Clydesdales, the AOL Running Man, and the State Farm slogan.

What accompanies Virginia’s famed slogan are specific, iconic landmarks which freckle the Commonwealth: LOVE signs.

LOVEWorks

“Virginia is for Lovers” is not just a slogan, but also constitutes of physical destinations rooted in roadside Americana.

Across the Commonwealth are more than 275 signs featuring the singular word, LOVE. Each sign, also called LOVEWorks, is made from unique materials and/or designed with artwork indicative of the area in which it was erected.

In the summer of 2021, Gloucester was added to this impressive roster with its own LOVE sign. The “L” represents a Guinea boot, named for a group of families who identify as some of the original families of the county and ties into Gloucester’s waterman history and culture. The “O” is in the shape of a daffodil, identifying the county’s daffodil industry and its Daffodil Festival. The “V” has two kayaks which represents the county’s water roadways. The “E,” which has a red brick motif, has the county’s founding date of 1651 represents its historic court circle.

Gloucester’s LOVE sign was unveiled in 2021 (Courtesy of Gloucester County)

That October, it was announced that what was supposed to be a temporary LOVEWork installation in Yorktown would become a permanent fixture at the riverfront destination.

There are visitors that plan entire vacations around finding the eponymous signs with social media groups dedicated to its members sharing images of their own stops to find LOVE (signs).

Embracing the fondness for these quirky yet emblematic signs, the Virginia Tourism Corporation has launched numerous campaigns to celebrate them and those who go out of their way to find them. For those wanting to find each sign, the Corporation has also provided a map of where each can be located throughout the Commonwealth. (Note: There are three in the Historic Triangle!)

So, this Valentine’s Day, you never need to look too far for love when you’re in Virginia because “Virginia is for Lovers.”

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