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Review of the 1978 PR Campaign 'I Love New York'

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 2413 words Published: 23rd Aug 2021

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Situation Background

‘I love New York’ – a simple phrase that changed New York City forever. The history of the ‘I love New York’ can be traced back in the 1970s on a taxi rid when a designer- Milton Glaser- scribbled 3 letters and draw a heart (The New York Times, 31 January 1987). At that time, the city had extremely bad reputation. The city was on the verge of bankruptcy. The level of crime, dirt, and rudeness were so high that it was considered as one of the most violent town (Business Insider Australia, 2013). The Commerce Department of New York State found that developing a public relations (PR) campaign with a logo that spark a sense of pride, honour and ownership was the best option to keep the city from totally going under (Geisler, 2014). The city needed a new image, a new reputation. Wells Rich and Greene agency, a 10-year-old agency at that time on Madison Avenue, was assigned that task. When Mrs Wells accepted the offer, which was neither her first nor her last campaign, she was already a rich and successful entrepreneur (Tungate, 2007). She was aware of the challenge that this campaign represent when the State came to her in a time of desperation with only a budget of $400,000 but she wanted to help the city that ‘had witnessed her climb to the top’ (Tungate, 2007). Restoring a State image and reputation with only $400,000 was definitely a challenge. The company used the money to undertake some consumer research for the mandated brand tracking study. With the result, the agency convinced the Legislature to invest $4million with the promise of generating revenue of $8 million (Ogilvy-09-CS-NewYork, 2009).Wells Rich and Greene agency popularised a slogan that is still alive even in 2014.

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The campaign, ‘I Love New York,’ main aim was to restore the city’s reputation by changing people’s attitudes and perception (The New York Times, 31 January 1987). Wells Rich and Greene agency adopted the traditional one way, message-oriented paradigm of practice – the monologic campaign model. Grunig and Hunt (1984) press agentry model suits best to that campaign. New York City was explicitly looking for publicity.

Grunig and Hunt came forward with their ‘four models’ approach to public relations in 1984.

Kruckeberg and Starck (1988) claimed that the main function of PR is to help America restored its loss of community feeling. Based on Grunig and Hunt (1984) PR 4 model approach, the most effective and the most ethical are the symmetrical ones because both the organisation and the targeted public benefit (Johnson & Zawawi, 2000). Susskind & Field (1996) supported that idea. They said that the only way for organisations to effectively secure and maintain their audience trust and support is by mutual gain communication.

However, Melkote (1991) refuted the idea that in a PR campaign ‘both parties have genuine concern about each other, rather than merely seeking to fulfil their own needs’ (Botan, 1997, p. 192) when it comes to constructing a nation’s image and identity. These kinds of campaigns, including the ‘I love New York’ campaign, are persuasive by nature. They are more likely to be one-way, top-down and linear program rather than relation building processes (Culbertson & Chen, 2009). Government PR campaign is composed of one-way, persuasive messages which are interpersonally transmitted to the people through whatever media are available (Melkote, 1991).

Ethical consideration

Based on Botan (1997) research, the ‘I Love New York’ campaign is ethically problematic. He claimed that monologic campaign model is not as ethical as a public relations campaign, which is based on dialogue. Botan (1997) argued that this model is not ethical because what ethics in nondialogic communication is concerned only about being loyal to the client’s strategic interest. He came forward with an alternative model- the dialogic model – which, according to him, has intrinsic ethical advantage over the present model.

Moreover, when developing a PR campaign, organisation should ensure that it is not a commercial speech as it was for Nike in 2002. PR practitioners should be careful when disseminating information and make sure that the messages they are delivering are not defined as commercial in character, or else the campaign would be considered as false advertising and commercial forms, in other words, unethical (Sharp, 2002).

However, nowadays what is considered as being an ethically and socially responsible public relation campaign is more culturally defined than normally accepted (Culbertson & Chen, 2009).


According to Reddi (2009), campaigns are divided into different types based on the situations or problems that they tackled and the most common conceptual campaigns are:

Usually organisations combine a PR campaign with other tools in the communication mix to reach their goals (Moody, 2012). The ‘I Love New York’ campaign can be classified as a PR campaign in partnership with advertising campaign. According to Moody (2012), both advertising and PR aim to create awareness, change attitudes, and behaviour – three characteristics that clearly match those of the campaign under study:

  • To make people aware of the unhidden treasure of the state of New York,
  • To make terrified tourists reconsider, and
  • To create a sense of belonging and proud in the heart of New Yorkers

Moody (2012) said that PR’s greatest strength in the fact that just through effective communication, one is able to manage communications, build relationships, trust and understanding, as well as inform and influence the attitude and behaviour while advertising control the key messages. In 1985, Salmon et al claimed advertising is more persuasive than PR since it could make use of message creativity, which could be seen as more informative and interesting, to capture target audience’ attention. Ries and Ries (2002) refuted that statement. They argued that great brands are born with PR not advertising because the latter lacks credibility. PR build a brand and advertising is there only to maintain it (Ries and Ries, 2002).

Problem, Goal and Objectives


The main problems in this case are that New York had extremely bad reputation and was almost bankrupt. There was an urgent need for the city to restore its reputation. Wells Rich and Greene agency had to come forward with clear objectives about how to tackle the problems. Each campaign has a specific set of objectives when dealing with a particular problem or situation (Reddi, 2009) and each campaign’s objective must support the project’s goal (Reddi 2009; Parkinson & Ekachai, 2006).


In the 1970s, the Commerce Department of New York State recognised the need for a campaign that can restore and promote the state image and reputation. Therefore, the overall project goal was reputation management for the state of New York through the promotion of the tourism sector (The New York Times, 1987).

Public Relations Objectives

The main public relation objective was to create and strengthen media awareness of the state of New York. More specifically, the campaign aimed to create an impression of New York as being a glamourous place to enjoy and stay. The following secondary objectives were also identified:

  • To change New Yorkers’ perception of their city
  • To help attract investment in the state
  • To convey a clear and consistent message across all media platforms
  • To increase consumer awareness of all the different treasures that New York State holds

The campaign’s goal clearly addressed the problem and the different objectives adequately support both the problem and the goal. The city needed money to survive. Attracting people in the city will not only bring money but it would also help the local businesses who were struggling not to declare bankrupt.

Moreover, if the local residents felt a certain pride to live in the state, they would do their best to promote a good image of ‘their’ city and keep it clean, safe and prosperous.

Furthermore, as the city would gained good reputation and would be attracting more and more tourists each day, multinationals, local residents, small and medium enterprises would be more willing to invest in the city and make it grow, expand, and prosper.

However, for the campaign to be a success, the goal and objectives should be clearly communicated to all the stakeholders. Each of them should find their place in the picture and understand the importance and impact of their actions (Milley, 2010). In the present situation, communication strategies have been included in the strategic plan.

Target Audience

“I did the bloody thing in 1975 and I thought it would last a couple of months as a promotion and disappear” (Milton Glaser, 2009). The campaign that is meant to last for 2 months is still alive and is constantly relaunched. In 2007, the campaign ‘moved into the digital world’ (Barron, 2007) to reach a larger audience. Originally, the target audience was not as large as it is today.

The primary target was the New Yorkers. The local residents should be proud to live in that city. The campaign aimed to change their mindset and values towards New York State. The program was designed to promote the overall image of the state of New York that is why the campaign targeted the general New York Public.

The other target audience is the travellers, which had been segmented into four groups (Brand Guidelines, 2008)


Strategies and tactics

‘Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat’ said Sun Tzu (544 BC – 496 BC). Wells Rich and Greene agency developed a strategic communication plan, which consisted of the strategies to be used to address the problem with the target publics and then employed a number of measurable tactics through which to implement those strategies (Botan, 1997).


The strategy to attract more people to New York and to transform an unstable economy into one of the most envied and visited city worldwide, consisted mainly of the media relations.

The campaign also aimed to remove the bad image held by the New Yorkers and to position the city as a place to relax, stay, and enjoy. It also needed to demonstrate all the ‘treasures’ that New York City could offer.

In the campaign, several general key messages were identified to clearly demonstrate that New York is the city to visit. The main idea was to build a certain envied toward the New York City in the media and the target public.


One of the tactics used was the ‘I love New York’ jingle performed by costumed Broadway actors and celebrities like Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra. When the stars appeared in the ads in the costumes, it definitely captured viewers’ attentions. The entire ‘magical’ theme reminded the spectators that New York was a cultural centre, a place where all dreams come true. The City where ordinary people become famous while having an exciting life. Affordable package deals for Broadway tickets and hotel accommodation were advertised with the commercial campaign ads encouraging viewers to come to experience the magic of Broadway.

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Another tactics was the other commercial ads that put forward not only the outdoor recreation activities available but also the natural hidden treasures that New York State holds. These ads were mainly small interviews where people would say, “I’m from Virginia, but I love New York.” These ads focused mainly on states adjacent to New York and on New York itself. Some of the commercial ads might say, “I’m from Chicago/ North Carolina/ Brooklyn, but I love New York.”


Analysis of campaign

‘I love New York’ – a slogan that have been designed more than 35 years ago to promote tourism in New York State is still well- known worldwide. A city, which was considered as being among the most dangerous cities, is now the leading destination for all overnight vacation trips (New York Times, 31 January 1987). That campaign started with only $4million in 1977 but it generated $28million revenue in that same year. That PR campaign could be considered as being among the most successful PR campaign of all times. The goal has been achieved. New Yorkers are proud of their city; tourism is the generating lots of money each year since 1977-1978 (McGeehan, 2011). The campaign definitely worked and even the re-launched campaigns are still successful. The original one has made a great impact. Many resources have been used. At that time, it cost a lot to the Government to invest in that campaign, but when we see the result today, it was certainly worth it. Every part of the 1977’s campaign has been effectively designed and used – the logo, the Broadway commercial ads with Frank Sinatra and other stars.

The tourism industry in New York is a major one. It creates thousands of jobs each year. According to Mr. Bloomberg, the city is expanding faster than other cities and ‘the strength of our tourism industry is one of the reasons New York City was less impacted by the national recession than other cities’ (McGeehan, 2011). Wells Rich and Greene agency together with Milton Glaser are, according to me, the great minds behind today’s New York City success.


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