‘Kentucky Kicks Ass’ Campaign Doesn’t Kick Ass, State Officials Say

Ad guys launch rogue tourism effort

Three ad executives billing themselves as "Kentucky for Kentucky" have launched an unofficial tourism campaign rebranding their home state with the memorably irreverent slogan "Kentucky kicks ass." The execs—Whit Hiler of Cornett-IMS and Griffin VanMeter of Bullhorn, both in Lexington, Ky., and Kent Carmichael, who recently fled up north to Energy BBDO in Chicago—believe Kentucky's current slogan, "Unbridled spirit," says nothing about the state. "Kicks ass," they claim, does a better job of capturing the essence of Kentucky, and they've produced T-shirts, stickers, a logo—and print ads that thus far haven't run.

There's even a YouTube video that explains their point of view, and it does a great job of embracing and lampooning local stereotypes while portraying Kentucky as a fun destination that doesn't take itself too seriously. The slo-mo sequence on the steps of the capitol, set to "Also Sprach Zarathustra," with Hiler and VanMeter high-fiving while adorned in "Kick Ass Kentuckian" garb—note the price tag still attached to VanMeter's baseball cap—is pretty awesome. (The microphone rig "accidentally" pokes into the shot at one point … nice touch!) Spirits run high, though not unbridled, as they brag of being an "elite marketing team … spreading the Kentucky message far and wide for many centuries," and note that the state is best known for "KFC," "horses," "whiskey," "marijuana," "stop lights" and "that chick in The Hunger Games." Various locals and visitors, including "a Frenchman from France," take turns saying the "Kentucky kicks ass" tagline.

The state's tourism business hasn't exactly been booming, so you'd think officials would appreciate any help they can get. Alas, that's not the case. "We certainly would not sanction or endorse that phraseology," says Kentucky tourism spokesman Pat Stipes. "These guys are Kentucky natives, and they love the state. But they have a different constituency. Which is no one." Sounds like that guy wants to kick some ass. Yeee-ha!

@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.
Publish date: January 3, 2013 https://dev.adweek.com/creativity/kentucky-kicks-ass-campaign-doesnt-kick-ass-state-officials-say-146231/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT