New York, Too Broke to Pay for "I Love New York" Ads, Begs for Free Work From Madison Avenue

Last Updated May 17, 2010 1:25 PM EDT

This year,  love for New York will be financially unrequited. New York's tourism authority is literally begging ad agencies to supply them with free 30-second TV commercials to refresh the state's iconic "I LOVE NEW YORK" campaign: The move is a sign of how deep budget cuts have affected the state, and a depressing measure of how far the campaign has fallen from its glory days when everyone had a T shirt or a shopping bag with the "I (heart) NY" logo. The text of the state's request for proposal will be greeted as a slap in the face by the advertising business, which has long made its de facto world headquarters in Manhattan if not actually on Madison Avenue. Instead of money, the state is offering agencies the chance to meet some famous people:
In the midst a national economic downturn and record state budget deficits, New York finds itself with no money to produce a much needed TV commercial for this summer's critical tourism season.

That's why I LOVE NEW YORK is asking for pro bono assistance from the state's film and TV industry to produce a thirty second TV commercial promoting New York State. We already have celebrity talent lined up to donate their time, including Rachael Ray, Mark Sanchez, Jim Kelly, Edward Norton and others.

Pete Rabot, of Munn Rabot, who once worked on the campaign, said:
All they want is your cameras, director, production crew, trucks, lighting, sound, craft services, editing, finishing, and trafficking. Oh, and your time, which, because it's yours, should cost nothing.
New York tourism has been in trouble for a while. Two years ago, the state spent $17 million on a poorly received campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi that appeared to have been made with free clip-art.

The most insulting part of the request for proposals (RFP) is its confession that the state does actually have the money, it just doesn't want to spend it. Once the ad is made it will be supported with a "Full multi-market ad buy and campaign," the document says.

The humbling part of this is that the state will get what it wants: One agency with time and resources to spare will step up in hopes of using the ad as a showcase for itself, and to make connections for future business with the state. Thus the RFP can be viewed as an interesting exercise in finding the shop with the lowest self-esteem.