From now through September, about 325,000 buttons and bumper stickers with the theme "Washington Is A Capital City" will be distributed at banks and stores. Other literature with the theme will be inserted in newspapers and in some bills sent to customers from area department stores and utilities.
Local radio stations will play 60-second finger-snapping tributes to Washington, the city that, according to the jingles, has got "Culture at the Kennedy Center and a marching band at Cardozo. Parades through Chinatown and pandas at the zoo."
In stores and banks, campaign posters of Cardozo High School band members, a restaurateur, a dance instructor, a taxi driver, a babysitter and a host of others who live and work in Washington announce the capital city's virtues.
It's all part of a $100,000 summertime tourism media blitz that the sponsors, The Mayor's Committee to Promote Washington, hope will boost the tourism industry here and do for Washington what the "I Love New York" campaign is doing for New York City.
But for the campaign to work effectively, promoters say, they have to begin selling Washington to Washingtonians.
All summer long, campaign sponsors say they will be spreading this message: "It's cool, it's hot, it's got what you want. It swings, it's fun, it's the big number one. It's a CA-PI-TAL CI-TY. It's Washington!"
Committee Chairman R. Robert Linowes said that the campaign's initial goal is to gain greater public awareness of the importance of boosting tourism, which city officials say provides the city with an estimated 31,000 jobs and is the city's second largest industry. Federal and local government is the largest.
"We want Washingtonians to try to be a little kind and receptive to (visitors) in the hopes that they'll want to come back," said Linowes, an influential Washington attorney and businessman who is also a key fundraiser of Mayor Marion Barry's reelection campaign.
In 1980, according to government figures, tourism in Washington generated more than $2.4 billion for local businesses and $14 million in net tax revenues. About 17 million tourists, business executives and conventioneers visited the city that year.
Despite the seemingly high figures, a $60,000 city-sponsored study released last year found that the local tourism industry suffered from a lack of promotion and coordination between business and government.
Emily Durso, the city's acting assistant director for economic and legislative affairs, said Washington is seeking more tourism business. "The mayor feels with a little coordination and extra money we should be able to increase tourism by 20 percent every year," Durso said.
The 1980 study recommended that Washington boost its current promotion budget to as much as $2 million to help generate more tourism through campaigns such as "Capital City." The current public awareness campaign is being supported by a $100,000 fund from the District's Office of Business and Economic Development, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the D.C. Convention Center Fund. Another $100,000 in services, materials and time has been donated by local businesses, Durso said.
Future funding for the campaign is expected to come with the passage of a bill before the D.C. City Council that would increase the Hotel Occupancy Tax from 80 cents a room per night to $1. Supported by the Hotel Association of Washington, the measure would set aside an estimated $700,000 of generated revenue for tourism promotion next year.
According to the committee's proposed budget, $450,000 of those tax revenues would be spent on national and international advertising promoting the "Capital City" campaign concept and still another one, "Weekend in the Capital City." The latter is meant to attract new visitors to Washington during weekends, traditionally the times when hotels have fewer occupants.
The rest of the money would support a citizen preview of the D.C. Convention Center and awareness projects for tourism industry employes, taxi drivers and students. It also would help support some community festivals. Community groups could apply for grants to support neighborhood and ethnic festivals such as Adams Morgan Day, Chinese New Year parade and Anacostia Day from a proposed $55,000 fund.
Campaign officials say those kinds of festivals as well as District neighborhoods and residents will be an important part of the campaign.
One of the radio campaign ads for example, contains this jingle: "Munching, music, biking and hiking. Parades, people, swimming and street fairs . . . Art, adventure, Rock Creek and reggae. Games, galleries, springtime and sports . . . Freebies, festivals, concerts and choirs. Nightlife, neighborhoods, the Skins and the zoo."
"Basically, what we're saying is there's more to Washington than monuments," explained campaign press relations spokeswoman Karen Lubieniecki. "We want to stress things that have nothing to do with the seat of government being here. Not Smithsonian things, but things that we take advantage of in our own neighborhoods," Lubieniecki continued, suggesting that tourists could visit Lincoln Park's Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial as well as the Washington Monument.
Their focus on real people and neighborhoods--as well as a limited budget--led the promoters to different parts of Washington. Most of the models or performers posed for posters or performed in the commercial free.
"We started calling friends and friends of friends, looking for people who weren't shy and would be animated," said Sande Lohm, senior writer at Abramson Associates Inc., the agency in charge of the campaign's advertising and also advertising for Barry's reelection campaign.
For the poster, they found Mayflower Hotel doorman Bob Beaver, Cardozo High School band members Eugene Osbourne, Rose Cheek and Ralph Williams, and Lorraine Koch, the hostess in colonial dress and dainty white cap at The Old Stone House in Georgetown.
Gladys and Richard McLain, members of Redland Baptist Church in Derwood, Md., are the gospel singers in blue and gold robes. Restaurateur Mel Krupin and Stuart Bermin, a cook at the Court of the Mandarins Chinese restaurant, play themselves. Elsewhere in the poster, newly crowned Miss Black Maryland, Roxanne Jenkins, poses as the alluring ballerina while Jack Guidon, an instructor at the Joy of Motion Dance Center in Northwest, portrays a clumsy French waiter.
Guidon also plays the storekeeper in the television commercial that whisks through a minute of song and dance in front of Weisfeld's Market at 4th and E streets SE and two Capital Hill townhouses on the same block. Lisa Williams, Lisa Jefferson and Charis Moses, Ellington High School students, are the teen-agers seen skipping through the spot that also features Lenora Pennypacker, who babysits for ad agency President David Abramson. Says Pennypacker, "I have on my good London Fog rain coat and a pink scarf. In color they say I look lovely."
"We asked ourselves, 'What's gonna turn people on?' " recalled Abramson, head of the agency that created the 'Capitol City' theme to focus on people, neighborhoods and historical sites rather than on institutions and monuments. "There are capital cities but when you think of Harrisburg, Pa., it's not a turn-on."
Campaign sponsors are hoping that "Washington Is A Capital City" will be as successful as "I Love New York" and "Virginia Is for Lovers." Washington's neighbors to the north and south have the best recognized travel slogans in the nation, according to a travel industry marketing poll.
Virginia tourism officials say that since their tourism program began in 1969, revenues from the tourist trade have increased by $3 billion. New York officials say their slogan and campaign, launched in 1978, increased the tourism business there by $2 billion and created 40,000 new tourism-related jobs.
Cliff Theiss, a New York state tourism official, said that since the introduction of that state's successful campaign, the number of cities and states with slogans has tripled.
Tourism industry professionals not affiliated with the Washington campaign declined to comment about it or said it is too early to assess the campaign's impact.
Those involved with the campaign are, not surprisingly, proud and hopeful. But at least one District official views it with slightly guarded optimism.
"It's not the greatest (slogan) in the world," Durso said, "but it's a good one."