Originally created 01/13/02

Tourism ads try to put Georgia on your mind



ATLANTA - Move over, Ray Charles.

A state-sponsored tourism campaign debuting Jan. 24 will include rap, gospel and electric-rock versions of Georgia on My Mind, the song Mr. Charles made famous in the 1960s.

The ditty, adopted as the official state song two decades ago, has been a frequent request on radio stations for more than 30 years, and even served as the theme for the hit television show Designing Women.

Now, with Gov. Roy Barnes proposing a $1 million infusion to help Georgia's sagging tourism industry, the song will get a new twist in a $300,000 series of radio and television ads.

"Music is the great communicator," said B.A. Albert, the creative director for Match Inc., the advertising group hired by the state to design the ad campaign.

Match Inc. hired Jack Turner, a Georgia-based musician, who produced seven arrangements of the song.

The campaign's television commercials contain rap, jazz, gospel, symphony and rock versions of the song, and renderings by a boy's choir and a solo pianist.

Georgia tourism grossed more than $16 billion in 2000, and remains the state's second biggest industry, behind agriculture.

However, the recession and the events of Sept. 11 have caused visitor revenue to dwindle as much as 20 percent in some markets during the past year.

The upcoming commercials are a veritable "who's who" of Georgia tourism hot spots, as seen by a female runner followed by a camera as she travels the state.

Among the vacation destinations seen in the commercials are the north Georgia mountains, the Georgia coast, downtown Savannah, downtown Atlanta and Stone Mountain.

As the background scenery changes throughout the commercial, so does the musical version of the song.

"It's all in-state talent," said Mr. Turner, who recruited the campaign's singers.

The multiple variations of Georgia on My Mind are meant to reflect the diversity of interests and attractions throughout the state, said Janis Cannon, the deputy commissioner of tourism for the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism.

GDITT and Match Inc. are also working on developing a CD that would contain different versions of the song performed by various celebrities.

Provided the state's lawmakers approve Mr. Barnes' $1 million marketing proposal, tourism officials may be able to amass an even bigger war chest.

"We have commitments from partners that will match (the state funds)," Ms. Cannon said.