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Zippy State Slogan Hits the Big 4-0

What is probably America's snappiest state slogan turns 40 this year. It's not "I Love New York." That's an even longer-running promotion, but it's just for the city of New York, not the whole state.

"Virginia is for Lovers" is the 40-something slogan, and it has served that mid-South state so well that it's still going strong.

An advertising agency in the Virginia capital city of Richmond came up with the slogan in 1969 as peace demonstrations, hippie love-ins like the Woodstock Music Festival, and books such as Erich Segal's Love Story made headlines. Love was in the air, but at first Virginia's promotional campaign was anything but suggestive. The Old South state was largely conservative and heavy into tobacco, military installations and tourism tied to the homes of eight former U.S. presidents who were born there.

So the campaign tiptoed out as "Virginia is for history lovers" and "Virginia is for beach lovers" and "Virginia is for mountain lovers." But it wasn't long before just "Virginia is for Lovers" began to appear on license plates, tourism brochures and all kinds of souvenirs.

The campaign certainly gave staid Virginia a livelier image.

And now state tourism officials are trying to make it even more provocative. They've launched a new Virginia marketing campaign that rolls out the slogan "Live Passionately."

We presume the new slogan means living life to the fullest at Virginia Beach or on Richmond's Monument Avenue of statues or in the Appalachian Mountains around Asheville. And of course, "Virginia is for Lovers" still officially means history lovers and so forth. But it's hard to miss the seductive wink in the state's promotional campaign - and its evident faith in the old marketing axiom that no matter the product, sex sells!

Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.