The "Better Yet Connecticut" TV tourism ad campaign was the brainchild of Carol Wallace. It was the training ground for Carol Wallace's Preserve America campaign. When she heard that officials in Connecticut's Economic Development Department were unable to effectively market their new tourism slogan, she volunteered to line up people across Connecticut to do so. Then-Governor William O'Neill appointed Carol to his Governor's Vacation Travel Council, chairman of the tourism slogan committee, and Executive Producer of the Better Yet Connecticut TV ad campaign. She came up with the concept for three TV commercials, lined up the talent and hundreds of volunteers who donated time and services, acquired funding for production, was chairman of the associated marketing campaign, and became the media spokesperson for the campaign. She oversaw the gala that launched the TV ads as well. Selected newspaper articles are featured here about this tourism campaign, which is the first of its kind ever done in America.
Connecticut Goes Hollywood
Last Wednesday evening was crummy and rainy, the kind of night perfect for dreaming about escaping January in Connecticut. It was also the night that three TV commercials promoting tourism in Connecticut were introduced at a swish party at the Marriott Hotel in Farmington.
The commercials promote "Better Yet Connecticut," our new state tourism slogan. This presumably doesn't replace our older logo, "Qui Transtulit Sustinet" which, in Latin, means "He who transplanted still sustains." Latin just wouldn't work for TV spots. Better yet, get snappy.
Everyone met at the ballroom at the hotel, where the executive chef, Scott Greenwood, had spent two days with five cooks preparing a feast. The spread alone - which was donated - deserves a review. There was, for starters, 150 pounds of fish and seafood, 65 pounds of almond paste, 30 pounds of almond paste, 60 pounds of fresh fruit, 200 pounds of cheese, 15 pounds of aspic. One person spent all day just opening clams and oysters.
It was beginning to look not like Connecticut. After a while, it looked more like Hollywood spotlight. At least five cameras were directed at Governor Bill O'Neill greeting actress Susan Saint James, who was wearing a chic red dress with gold polka dots and matching red shoes. To get a mental picture of just how la-di-da this party was, picture this scene:
Miss Connecticut, Dakeita Vanderburg was wearing a dress designed for the Miss America contest. It was a kind of sultry 1940s movie star number with a white fox collar and cuffs, black and white sequined top with a long black sequined skirt split up the middle.
"I walked in and said to my escort, 'I think I'm a bit overdressed,''' said Miss Connecticut, who speaks with a slight Southern drawl, the product of her North Carolina upbringing. There she was, singing "Going out of my head, can't take my eyes off of you." Directly behind her was a baby grand piano. Behind the black piano was a harp. Miss Connecticut was standing between two banquet tables. On either side of her were two huge platters piled with lobsters. The lobsters looked lost in the scene.
This must be the new image of Connecticut. The old Nutmeg State used to look conservative, even slightly dowdy.
Freelance artist Carol Wallace, a tall blonde wearing a black velvet suit (this fashion note is part of our new image), was the woman behind this bash. It was her idea to get movie stars (yes, including Paul Newman of Westport) to say why they like Connecticut for the ads. She had this picture of someone acting as a train conductor (Art Carney of Westbrook, as it turns out) looking out a train window pointing to famous faces. The famous faces then chat about why they live here. At the end of the commercials, a voice chants three times "Better Yet Connecticut" in a quickening tempo, like a train chugging along.
Wallace, who lives in Barkhamsted, pulled off the entire commercial project using donations and volunteers. In the end, there's 45 minutes worth of uncut film.
On Wednesday, we saw the finished commercials (three 30-second spots) and some uncut footage. The uncut parts are the most memorable. In one scene, Paul Newman, wearing a car racing outfit, talks with Sam Posey, the race car driver. Newman says, "I'm a pretty lucky fella. I can live anywhere I want and I've been living in Connecticut for 22 years." Posey's mumbled response - something like "well goleee" - doesn't appear in the final commercial.
The best scene of all has Susan Saint James, of Litchfield, dangling her baby, Charlie, on her knee. They are sitting in a train. To explain what happens, remember it's a hot summer day, the windows are closed and covered to block out the outside and the baby is hungry.
The actress looks at her baby and says, "Why do we like Connecticut, Charlie? Cuz it's green and nice and relaxing - We like Connecticut cuz it's close to New York - why don't you like Connecticut?" Her remarks end because her baby, who started off cranky, is downright bawling his head off.
That doesn't appear in any commercial either, but it's memorable.
The ads should start appearing sometime this spring. The game plan is to get Connecticut TV stations to show them for free, a kind of public service announcement. There is also a $40,000 budget in the Connecticut Department of Tourism to buy TV time from New York City-to-Washington corridor. Ten locations were used for the commercials. This part of the state shows the Governor and Nikki O'Neill eating lobsters at Abbott's in Noank, a shot of the Mystic Seaport Museum and a fisherman pulling a trout from the Natchaug River in Chaplin. The fish story is good - a fish had to be imported because there were none to be caught the day of filming. That's not included in the commercial either.
The party at the hotel started at 7 o'clock and ended around ten. A sure sign that the party was over: a cigarette was stubbed out in an oyster shell.
I was the only reporter from this part of the state - "the Other Connecticut." Some solicitous people, upon introductions, said - "You came all the way from Norwich?"
Yep. I wouldn't have missed it. Better yet than any old getaway