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Yes, Virginia, there is good in all of us!

by | Jan 16, 2019

By Matt Smith

Hello and welcome to my first column in which I praise and promote good work being created by the good people at agencies in the D.C. metro area and, when appropriate, Virginia-based agencies. The new column was explained in a recent Capitol Communicator posting you can find here. In a nutshell, as I stated in that post, my goal is to promote great work by local agencies. Not work created by my agency, SmithGifford, but good work from any and all agencies in our area.

As examples of what I plan to cover in this column, I’d like to call out two recent campaigns that are not only wonderfully creative, but are also great examples of an advertising community that truly cares about people and are not afraid to substantively address the most important issues of the day.

Here in Virginia, our accepting and open culture was attacked last year in Charlottesville and correspondingly around the state. The Charlottesville march and its terrible aftermath put our community in a global spotlight in which the whole world questioned our humanity and our values. The main reason these two campaigns stand out is because in their own way each one emphatically says NO, what happened in Charlottesville is not representative of what Virginia is about. That was not us. We are bigger than that—much bigger. The campaigns boldly and fearlessly state that in truth, Virginia is a state of compassion and tolerance.

One of the campaigns is from Williams Whittle in Alexandria; the other is from The Martin Agency in Richmond. One is print, the other is video, and each takes a slightly different approach to showing the good in all of us.

Williams Whittle created a fantastic print ad for the 40th Anniversary of the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington (IFC) that beautifully and tastefully shows how people from a wide range of religious and cultural backgrounds appreciate diversity and deplore religious intolerance. My favorite was the Buddhist monk who express his love for the singing talents of Baptist choirs–I didn’t see that one coming.

On its website, the agency says the goal of the effort is “for IFC to renew its efforts to bring together all faith communities, becoming a united voice that encourages respect and dignity for all.” It succeeds brilliantly. You can view the video and accompanying print ad here.

It’s no surprise that myself and many others find work by the Martin Agency to be first-rate. But the latest campaign for the decades-old Virginia Is for Lovers campaign for the Virginia Tourism Commission is a major leap into what truly great advertising should be. The agency created the original campaign 50 years ago (yes, it’s been that long) but in this new execution they’ve managed to reinvent it. The results are beyond powerful—they represent real truth. Check it out here.

The agency created a three-minute-plus video called “LoveShare” that tells the genuine and heart-felt story of Jena and John, an interracial couple that take a vacation in Richmond with their parents. Each person in the video offers conversational testimony to the difficulties, necessities, and true value of racial acceptance.

“Seeing what happened in Charlottesville last year … We wanted the chance to get that message out there and let people know that is not what this place stands for,” The Martin Agency associate creative director Mik Manulik told Adweek.

As a Virginian, I’m proud of both the Commission and The Martin Agency for this wonderful work.

It’s a salute to a courageous client and the entire agency team that developed and supported this important message. The client and the agency could have easily slipped back into showing beaches and mountains, but instead they bravely chose to changes the game of destination marketing, much like they did five decades ago with the original Virginia is for Lovers campaign.

Congratulations—and many thanks—to Williams Whittle, The Martin Agency and their clients for creating good work for good people and showing the rest of the country (and the world) what Virginia is really all about.

About the Author

Matt Smith

Matt Smith is the Founder of Smith Gifford, with close to 40 years’ experience as a creative and agency leader at the nation’s top agencies. He's won literally every award out there, Cannes, Clios, One Show Gold, Silver and Bronze, ADDYs, ADDYs and more ADDYs, and even Pillar of the Community and Best Places to work twice. A fourth generation Washingtonian, he can't spell or understand grammar, having spent the first 10 years of his life in schools in France and Germany. Even though "Learning three languages before age 10 messed me up bad," Matt has written a hugely successful website called WoodyBoater for the past 13 years, for which he was featured on CBS Sunday Morning.


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