Virginia is no longer for lovers.
The venerable state slogan that endeared the Old Dominion to millions of young romantics and found its way on to innumerable bumper stickers, billboards and T-shirts was officially abandoned today, a victim of modern-day market research.
After discovering that the state was losing its appeal as a mecca for America's tourists, Gov. Charles S. Robb approved a new $2.4 million multimedia advertising campaign that replaces "Virginia Is for Lovers" with a new "synergistic" theme built around the idea of excitement.
There will be no one slogan but such tag lines as "Virginia: Exciting Times, Everytime" and "These are Exciting Times in Virginia" will appear on state ads.
It might have have been different. A local advertising firm, retained by the state to handle its new campaign, considered suggestions ranging from the bland ("Virginia Makes It New") to the offbeat ("Virginia is Hotsy-totsy and Rarin' to Go.")
"We needed a new and different image for the state of Virginia," explained Secretary of Commerce Betty Diener, who disclosed the new theme at a long-awaited press conference today.
That painful realization stemmed from a marketing survey conducted last year which found that Virginia was rapidly falling behind its neighbors, particularly North and South Carolina, in luring the multibillion-dollar state tourist trade.
About 93 percent of those questioned didn't even think of Virginia as a vacation spot, the survey found, and when they did, they rarely got excited.
"People's perceptions of Virginia were very average," Diener said. "We don't like to be perceived as very average."
Blame fell, at least in part, on the state slogan and its accompanying heart-shaped emblem.
Adopted in 1970 during the administration of then-governor Linwood Holton, "Virginia is for Lovers" flourished for years and was even emulated nationally. "I Love New York," for example, has long been considered here as a trite derivation.
The upshot is that Virginia's slogan has in time turned into something of a cliche, said Peter J. Coughter, Jr., executive vice president of Siddall, Matus & Coughter Inc., the advertising firm hired to replace it.
"It was a great slogan for the state, but it was no longer communicating the things we were talking about," said Coughter.
"There are a lot of people who have copied it. It's not a real powerful advertising tool."
Whether the new "exciting times" theme will fare any better is open to question.
A test television commercial shown to reporters today flashes images of Colonial Williamsburg, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the "Loch Ness Monster" roller coaster at King's Dominion along with what Diener called a "toe-tapping" tune about the "excitement" of Virginia.
Yet Diener acknowledged under questioning that there is no survey data that indicates Virginians think of their state as an exciting place.
However, there were also few around today who mourned much for the old slogan.
Said House Majority Leader Thomas Moss (D-Norfolk), "You can't stop progress."