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'I Love NY' Marks Silver Anniversary

Love for "I Love New York" seems endless.

Sinatra said it way back, Dracula too. Marc Anthony does it now with a bit of Spanish. Meanwhile, the image of a red heart surrounded by an "I" and an "NY" has been plastered on countless T-shirts, bumper stickers and coffee mugs. Even soldiers in Afghanistan wore buttons with the iconic symbol.

Launched as a gamble when New York's fortunes were at a low ebb, the "I Love New York" campaign is celebrating its 25th year - an eternity for an advertising run. With a hummable tune and a striking symbol, "I Love New York" has seeped into public consciousness like few other ad campaigns.

"I think it's become part of the vernacular. And when that happens, it's a good thing," said Richard Kirshenbaum, co-chairman and chief creative officer of Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners in New York City.

The idea for the ad campaign dates to the mid-1970s, a time when state and city finances were shaky. New York City was saddled with an image of being garbage-strewn and crime-ridden.

John Dyson, then the state's commerce commissioner, believed a centralized advertising campaign burnishing the images of the state and city would attract more than enough tourists to pay for itself. He convinced his boss, Gov. Hugh Carey, and leery legislators into spending $4 million despite the tight times.

The Wells, Rich, Greene advertising agency was hired to figure out what to say. Slogans that ended up in the trash included "New York, New York, It's a Heck of a State" and "New York. A State for All Seasons."

Accounts differ on who had the "I Love New York" idea first. Dyson said it was the project's shoestring budget that helped inspire the creative team to think of the famous slogan.

"The $4 million had to go to TV, so we had no money for anybody to do anything," he said. "So everybody we asked kept saying 'OK I'll do it. I love New York."'

Graphic designer Milton Glaser did the heart design without charging for his work. The song was donated by Steve Karmen, who composed scores of stick-in-your-head jingles for products like Budweiser and Hershey bars.

TV ads that debuted May 1977 featured Broadway dancers from "A Chorus Line" and the campez Wlo said, "I'm from Brooklyn, but I Love New York."

The ads went on to feature Frank Sinatra, Yul Brenner, Morgan Fairchild and Frank Langella as Dracula. The idea for using a heart symbol instead of spelling out "Love" came later that year, Dyson said.

Commercials continue to this day with an ever-changing cast of people proclaiming their love for New York. One recent ad has Marc Anthony urging listeners to come to New York by saying "Venga a Nueva York."

The heart logo has been copied extensively - a popular bumper sticker replaces the "NY" with breeds of dogs.

In 2000, a panel assembled by The Toronto Globe and Mail's business publication, R.O.B. Magazine, rated "I Love New York" the 24th greatest corporate logo of all time, placing it between Lucky Strike (No. 23) and CBS (No. 25).

The slogan has gained new meaning since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

The "I Love New York" symbol become a sort of badge of support for the city. Soldiers in Afghanistan have worn the buttons into battle zones. Glaser tweaked his famous design with the heart singed, making it melancholy.

"I Love New York More Than Ever" has become popular since the attacks.

Last week, Dyson, Carey and others involved in the campaign's creation were honored for their contribution at a ceremony in the Hudson Valley.

Dyson, a millionaire businessman who later became a deputy mayor for Giuliani, said "I Love New York" remains a high point of his public service career.

"It ended up being the most memorable of all the things I did."

By Michael Hill

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