This year, Virginia celebrates an unprecedented 35 years of tourism success with its �Virginia Is for Lovers� slogan. The phrase has become a much-imitated part of the national language, even in other states' travel promotions. The �I (heart) New York� slogan, for example, appeared later in the mid-'70s.

The Year was 1969

The timing was right in 1969 when the Virginia State Travel Service (now the Virginia Tourism Corporation) adopted what would become its world-renowned �Virginia Is for Lovers� slogan. The Travel Service could not have known that the Yippies would become Yuppies � and later, Boomers � or that the Volkswagen microbus with the peace sign on the dashboard would give way to the station wagon as the official car of a generation, but they knew where the future was in tourism: a new generation of visitors.

A favorite book in 1969 was Erich Segal's Love Story. Jacqueline Susann's The Love Machine was a best seller. Henry Mancini scored with Love Theme from �Romeo and Juliet.� The Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969 drew more than 300,000 young people for a weekend of peace, music and mud. Given the tenor of the times, the roll-out of �Virginia Is For Lovers� appealed to younger consumers who were the market of the future.

The Ad Agency

The phrase came from a creative team headed by George Woltz of Martin & Woltz Inc., the Richmond advertising agency that won the Virginia State Travel Service account in 1968. 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 first ad mentioning the new slogan ran in the March 1969 issue of "Modern Bride."

The phrase 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 � with a generation that would become the most sought-after group of spenders ever to wield a credit card.

Virginia is For Lovers of . . .

No one knows exactly why �Virginia Is for Lovers� has been so durable, but part of the mystique of the slogan is that it has meant many things to different people. Today, a new generation is discovering love for Virginia's mountains, beaches, history, theme parks, vibrant cities, outdoor activities, sports and hospitality.

And the love story continues.