Rhode Island Marketing Official Quits After Tourism Fiasco

Open Jaw

Rhode Island may be a lot of things, but it’s no Iceland.

The state's top marketing official has resigned, following the disastrous rollout of a tourism campaign that included a video mistakenly featuring a scene from Iceland.

Governor Gina Raimondo said she accepted Betsy Wall's resignation and added that the state would drop part of a new logo, the tagline "Cooler & Warmer." The tagline was designed by Milton Glaser, creator of the iconic "I Love NY" logo, but it left Rhode Islanders deeply unimpressed.

Raimondo, a Democrat, said it was unacceptable how many mistakes were made in the tourism campaign rollout and that people need to be held accountable.

"As I dug into it a little bit and realized just how poor of a job was done, I got pretty mad myself," she said. "These were sloppy, just unacceptable mistakes."

The video was part of a $5 million integrated campaign to attract tourism and business. It briefly showed a skateboarder in front of the Harpa concert hall in Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, and was subsequently mocked on social media and made international news. Embarrassed state tourism officials quickly yanked it off YouTube.

More scrutiny of the video led to the discovery of numerous errors and outdated material on a newly redesigned tourism website. For example, the website stated that Rhode Island is home to 20% of the country's historic landmarks — instead of less than 2%.

Raimondo said the state was getting back $120,000 spent on the campaign: $100,000 for work by a marketing firm that coordinated the effort and $20,000 for the cost of the video by a subcontractor.

Many residents also were unhappy about the new state logo and the "Cooler & Warmer" motto. Raimondo said the motto would be dropped because it "seems to not ring true for the people of Rhode Island."

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