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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

South Carolina In An Uproar Over London Gay Tourism Ad

Amro Worldwide is a travel agency that focuses in gay travel and in a series of ads with posters plastering the London subway regarding 6 U.S. cities. The state of South Carolina is in an uproar over the "South Carolina is so gay" advertisement.
The posters put up in the London subway advertised the charms of South Carolina, Atlanta, Boston, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Washington, D.C, but in South Carolina the ads didn't go over well.

The advertising campaign was which is being called "the gayest ever mainstream media advertising campaign in London", was designed by an Australian firm called "Out Now" for the Amro Worldwide Travel Agency.

Although there was no backlash from the other 5 major U.S. cities, in South Carolina the reaction was almost immediate after a South Carolina political blog called The Palmetto Scoop discovered the advertising campaign and the poster specifying South Carolina and wrote about it..

The advertisements were timed for London’s Gay Pride Week, which ended Saturday. The posters touted the attractions of the state to gay tourists, including its “gay beaches” and its Civil War-era plantations.

Gay rights have been a hot button topic for South Carolina and almost immediately after finding out about this advertisement, the Republican Senator from Greenville, S.C., David Thomas, called for an audit of the advertising budget handled by the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. He also issued a statement stating, "South Carolinians will be irate when they learn their hard earned tax dollars are being spent to advertise our state as ‘so gay.’”

The tourism department canceled the $5,000 for the posters advertising the state, claiming that a state worker approved the ad without running it by senior officials and that state worker has since resigned.

South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford, agreed the posters were "inappropriate".

The chief executive of Amro Worldwide, Andrew Roberts, said the campaigned was designed specifically to "send a clear message to everyone who sees this campaign that it is long past time that ‘so gay’ should be used as a negative phrase of disapproval." He called the campaign a success asserting that they reached over 2 million people in London and continued on to say, "From where we sit, and for all our many customers, being described as ‘so gay’ is not a negative thing at all. We think it is just great to be so gay."

State tourism officials insisted that they had known nothing about the campaign. But when the promotion was first announced last month, the tourism board said in a statement that “it sends a powerful positive message.”

“For our gay visitors, it is actually quite wonderful for them to discover just how much South Carolina has to offer — from stunning plantation homes to miles of wide sandy beaches,” the statement said.

After dealing with irate residents of South Carolina, they have reversed that position.

One comment from a resident, a Mr. Ventphis Stafford reacted to the advertising campaign by stating, "We’re so gay? Nah. Wrong state. Go to California.”

According to the Gay and Lesbian Travel Association estimates, gay tourism is a $64.5 billion market in the United States and they claim to have gay-themed campaigns in over 75 cities around the world with no controversy. They also maintain that the reason this campaign is causing an uproar in South Carolina is because recently there was a debate over gay rights in the schools.

That debate ended with a principal of a Columbia high school resigning his position rather than approving the creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance at the school.

They certainly miscalculated in using South Carolina.