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Three firms team up to rebrand Rhode Island

Efforts to include winter advertising strategy, new state license plates debuting next summer

After months of reviewing applications and negotiating contracts, the three firms tasked with rebranding Rhode Island and boosting tourism in the Ocean State will begin their efforts. The various responsibilities of the project will be split between Milton Glaser, Havas PR and Epic Decade.

Milton Glaser — the same group responsible for the “I Love New York” campaign of 1977 — was tapped to lead the design and branding effort, while Havas PR will handle its implementation. Epic Decade will “execute events to engage residents in telling an authentic Rhode Island story,” according to a press release from the office of Gov. Gina Raimondo.

To cover the campaign, $4.5 million has been set aside in the Ocean State’s 2016 budget, compared to the $470,000 that was allocated for the 2015 fiscal year. In the past, Rhode Island has consistently ranked as one of the country’s least ambitious states with respect to tourism promotion. This year’s larger budget remains far below that of many states, especially Florida and Hawaii, which spent nearly $69.5 million and $82 million in 2015, respectively, CNBC reported.

Seth Goldenberg, founder and CEO of Epic Decade, said Rhode Island’s campaign will be less about “plastering advertising in every format possible” and more about generating a campaign that “has a significant impact” while working with “limited resources.”

“You’ll start to feel the impact of our work in December,” said Marian Salzman ’81, CEO of Havas PR North America, adding that these efforts will primarily consist of “more press coverage both locally and nationally.”

Milton Glaser’s creative work in design and branding will come later in early 2016, Salzman said. Though these target deadlines are months away, executives of the three firms have already begun to meet and collaborate as a team, she said.

In addition to attracting new businesses and tourists, the team will try to increase resident pride and emphasize local culture, executives of the three firms said.

For Salzman, success looks like “people having more pride that they live here” and creating “a renewed interest in being part of a Rhode Island community for people who have been here previously,” she said.

Goldenberg said the “storytelling” aspect of his proposal consists of getting “artists, designers and media makers who have ties to Rhode Island to come back to … work with communities to make new works that tell the story of the state.”

Another aspect of the statewide campaign to build pride and enthusiasm will be the introduction of new license plates after more than 10 years of the current “wave design.” The Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles unveiled an all-blue plate with a sailboat silhouette under former Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 P’17 in fall 2014, but the design never became available to the public.

Raimondo has directed the team to produce and release an alternative plate design as part of the larger tourism campaign, Goldenberg said. This will be part of the portfolio developed by Milton Glaser’s team, Marie Aberger, spokeswoman for Raimondo, told WPRO News, adding that the portfolio should be unveiled in summer 2016.

“People don’t put Rhode Island at the top of their vacation list. … When you get to five weeks out in planning a vacation, people then decide to add Rhode Island back to the list,” Salzman said. To improve the state’s tourism industry, people need to “come more frequently, stay a little longer, enjoy a little more and stay beyond the summer season,” she said.

The team members remain hopeful that if they “get this right, you have the next ‘I love New York,’” she added.

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