PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – After days of embarrassments, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Friday evening that she has accepted the resignation of Rhode Island’s chief marketing officer and is getting rid of the state’s widely criticized new tourism slogan, “Cooler Warmer,” according to WPIR.
Raimondo also said taxpayers would get back more than $100,000 from two of the companies involved in the new tourism campaign’s launch, and said she plans to keep the new tourism logo while dropping the slogan that went with it.
“We’ve gotten a huge amount of feedback in the past few days on the campaign, some positive but most of it is very critical,” Raimondo told reporters during a news conference at the State House, adding: “‘Cooler Warmer’ is not a tagline that Rhode Islanders like, that has been clear.”
“It is clear to me one of the things I’ve learned from listening and engaging with people is there should have been more public participation in this effort from the get-go,” she said. She pledged to “learn from these mistakes” and take steps to improve the marketing campaign, and said she understood that criticism was coming because “Rhode Islanders have a deep and abiding passion for our state.”
The chief marketing officer, Betsy Wall, had been hired just last December but continued to live in Massachusetts, where she previously worked. Wall had come under heavy scrutiny after the tourism campaign’s botched rollout and a disastrous radio interview Thursday where she failed to recognize Rhode Island’s famed Gaspee Days.
The controversy began Monday night when the R.I. Commerce Corporation unveiled the new logo and slogan, created in part by two out-of-state marketing firms for roughly $550,000, as the symbol of a new $4.5-million statewide tourism campaign.
The branding was quickly mocked on social media, and the criticism grew exponentially when it was discovered a related promotional video included footage of Iceland and a redesigned tourism website contained outdated, inaccurate information. The errors made national headlines.
“It’s unacceptable how many mistakes were made in this rollout,” Raimondo said Friday. “And we need to hold people accountable because Rhode Islanders deserve better, taxpayers deserve better.”
The cabinet secretary who leads the Commerce Corporation, Stefan Pryror, was not on hand for the news conference.
Documents released Wednesday show the Commerce Corporation has already spent almost half of the new $4.5 million marketing budget for 2015-16, with $1 million of the money paid to its lead consultant, Havas PR North America, for “public relations and fees.” About $1.67 million of the budget has been allocated for expenses such as advertising buys.