Rhode Island’s ‘Cooler & Warmer’ Brand Campaign Deemed ‘Unacceptable’


Rhode Island Cooler & Warmer

Rhode Island’s new $4.5 million marketing campaign “Cooler & Warmer” is an official disaster and Betsy Wall, CMO of Rhode Island Commerce, which developed it along with Havas and famed designer Milton Glaser, has resigned.

“It’s unacceptable how many mistakes were made in this roll out,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. “We need to hold people accountable because Rhode Islanders deserve better. Taxpayers deserve better, and too many mistakes were made.”

Raimondo said local ad agency IndieWhip will return more than $20,000 to the state and Havas, the creative lead, will return $100,000. The video went viral as it surfaced that footage from Iceland was included in the roll-out

The three-second snippet in question featured a skateboarder in front of a massive glass-front building as the voiceover says, “Imagine a place that feels like home, but holds enough uniqueness you’re never bored.”  Response was quick as people online compared the glass building to an iconic concert hall in Reykjavik.

IndieWhip posted a statement defending the footage saying, “The footage in question is of a Rhode Island skateboarder, filmed by a Rhode Islander.” But it also took the blame. “On behalf of the Great State of Rhode Island, we sincerely apologize for the editing mistake brought to our attention in connection to the Commerce RI #WeAreRI campaign.”

Going forward, that footage and the tagline will be replaced, but Glaser’s new logo will remain. The celebrated designer of New York’s iconic “I Love New York” logo and tagline, Glaser chose a simple sail as a brand mark to embody the essence of the Ocean State.

“When I did the ‘I Love New York’ identity, I had no idea it would be so durable,” Glaser said in Adweek. “One of the reasons it’s durable, curiously, is that it makes people feel good when they look at it. So here I was trying to do that in effect by creating a sense of pleasure with the association with Rhode Island.”

Rhode Island Cooler & WarmerWall said in Adweek that she chose Glaser because, “We weren’t just looking for some corporate logo that—nothing against anonymous art directors—but that an anonymous art director was doing at their computer, but something that really spoke to Rhode Island’s passion for design, nautical history and history of original thought.”

In addition to the irregular Icelandic footage, the new website featured inaccurate statistics and out-of-state stock photos, catapulting the story to the front page of The Boston Globe last week and prompting CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley to quip on-air, “Rhode Island officials did not blame the error on providence—they blamed the editing company.”

Wall blamed the errors on a revised state tourism website.

One notable omission in the campaign video, the 50th Anniversary of Gaspee Days, the annual June celebration of the burning of a British ship by Rhode Islanders during the Revolutionary War era.

“As a singular form, as an object, it’s trying to do a lot of things and kind of doing nothing at the same time,” John Caserta, head of the graphic design department at Rhode Island School of Design, said about Glaser’s logo. “It doesn’t make me want to understand the state more. It’s building on a sailboat view of a state, which I don’t think is necessarily why people would come.”

Alec Beckett, creative partner at Providence-based ad agency Nail, sees the campaign as “solid” except for the “Cooler & Warmer” tagline. “It violates a fundamental rule of marketing, which is if you want people to think your brand is cool, don’t say your brand is cool.”

“We’ve gotten a huge amount of feedback in the past few days on the campaign, some positive but most of it is very critical,” said Raimondo. “‘Cooler & Warmer’ is not a tagline that Rhode Islanders like, that has been clear.”


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