Monday, August 20, 2007

Virginia Is For Crack

Va. alters tourism ad campaign after blooper with gang sign
Aug 20, 2007
William C. Flook, The Examiner

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - Virginia’s Tourism Corp. has altered an upcoming campaign after revelations that characters in a series of ads were unknowingly making hand signs used by a Chicago gang.

The planned advertisements, meant to entice visitors to the Old Dominion, featured Virginians making a heart-shaped sign by touching together their index fingers and thumbs, a reference to the “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan. But, apparently unbeknownst to tourism officials, the gesture is used by the Gangster Disciples, which the FBI calls “one of the most violent of four African American gangs that hang out on the South Side of Chicago.”

The tourism agency said Friday it has removed the hand signs from the ads.

“For the majority of people, the heart sign is a symbol of love, and the campaign’s images intended to convey a love of travel and a love of Virginia,” Alisa Bailey, the agency’s president, said in a statement. “A heart has been our symbol since 1969 and we were looking for new ways to express it.”

The Chicago-based gang is known for its large-scale crack-cocaine operations and was featured in a chapter of the best-seller “Freakonomics” in which a sociology graduate student gained the trust of gang members to learn about the group’s operational structure.

“Out of respect to those who have concerns about the use of this symbol, we will adjust the creative images in our ad campaign to eliminate any further misinterpretation of the heart/hand symbol,” Bailey’s statement said. “We regret if anyone interpreted the symbol as anything other than a symbol of love as was intended.”

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