Thursday, April 26, 2007

Speaking of tourists...

When I was creative director for an ad agency in Hartford, we were pitching the Connecticut Department of Economic Development. The piece of the pie we were going after was the tourism account. It was up to me to come up with the concepts, the ideas, the themes. Whatever you want to call them.

What I usually did before getting serious about the work that needed to be done was to come up with some funny ideas. At least I thought they were funny. That sort of primed the pump, greased the wheels. So to speak.

One of the ideas I came up with was a new slogan for the state of Connecticut. One that could replace " Constitution State " on its license plates. The line I came up with was:

Live Well Or Die.

After I thought of that I went back into the art department and had one of the artists create a mock up Connecticut license plate, with the slogan I came up with on it. Mark Catalina, who's since made a name for himself in the art world, did that.

Then I had another idea. I put the mock up license plate in a manila envelope and mailed it to Jerry Brooks, a reporter for the local CBS affiliate, WFSB. Two days later I got a call from Jerry Brooks.

" I think this would make a good ' Brooks File " report, " he said. " Can I come up and talk to you about it? "

I said sure. This would be " free media! " I thought. Free publicity for the agency.

" Great, " Jerry Brooks said. " I'll bring a cameraman with me. "

I hung up the phone and walked into my boss's office. My boss, the agency owner, would love this. Free publicity! Three or four minutes on the Brooks File!

I told him what I'd just done.

" You did what?, " he asked. " He's coming here? With a cameraman? "

The look on his face suggested that my idea, which I thought was bright, wasn't so bright from his perspective. But it was too late to change course. Jerry Brooks was on his way to our office.

Jerry Brooks came. Interviewed me. His cameraman recorded the interview. Jerry thanked me. I asked him when this would be on. He said the next evening.

The next evening I watched the Jerry Brooks file, on which he interviewed me. Then interviewed John Carson, who was then the Economic Development Commissioner. Jerry Brooks asked him what he thought of the slogan: Live Well Or Die.

" Not much, " he said.

Oh, did I mention? I watched the piece with my boss. and the three principals of the larger ad agency with which we were about to merge. And did I mention this? John Carson was the one who would ultimately decide which Connecticut ad agency would get the tourism account. The decision was due to be made soon.

We didn't get the account.

And soon after the agencies merged, I was gone. I'd seen the copywriting on the wall, and made the decision myself. Looking back on that time - this was in the late 1980s - I think Live Well Or Die was perfect. All those ambitious Connecticut yuppies, wearing their Rolexes, driving theor BMWs...

What better message to have on their plates than:

Live Well Or Die!

I thought it was one of my better lines. The powers that were thought otherwise. So it went, and so it goes. By the way, the agency finally did get some work from the state. Came up with the line that you can still see on the signs on the borders.

Connecticut. We're full of surprises. The state started using that one right around the time the mayors of two of its largest cities were charged with corruption and thrown into prison. It was in use when the governor, John Rowland was charged with corruption and thrown into prison.

Connecticut. It's full of surprises. Not a bad line, and a pretty accurate one at that.

But I still like Live Well Or Die

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