The West Virginia Tourism Office’s new television commercials took the industry’s top honor at the U.S. Travel Association’s Mercury Awards on Aug. 20, according to Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby.
The Tourism Office and its renowned “Almost Heaven, West Virginia” campaign was recognized by the National Council of State Tourism Directors in the category Broadcast Advertising: Television.
“This incredible honor would not be possible without the support and vision of Governor Justice,” Ruby said.
“He knows what it takes to sell West Virginia, and he has worked with me every step of the way on this campaign.
“Thanks to his constant support, we were able to create an advertising campaign for West Virginia that is taking the market by storm and putting Almost Heaven on the map as a must-see travel and tourism destination.”
Of travelers who saw the advertisement, 64 percent said it made them want to visit West Virginia, and 52 percent indicated it changed the way they feel about West Virginia.
The TV commercials aired in 2018 and were viewed more 40 million times. The spots beat out Visit California’s “Kidifornia” campaign and Travel Michigan’s popular “Pure Michigan” spots.
In their evaluation, the judges wrote, “This campaign had a very interesting strategy challenge—how to generate first-time visitors in light of the negative publicity that was having a national impact. What better way to counteract that perception than with a very soulful refreshing version of 'Take Me Home Country Roads?' The resulting spot was beautiful and authentic to West Virginia.”
The spots featured scenic images of the state set to a version of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by The Sea the Sea, a husband-wife duo with roots in West Virginia.
“'Country Roads' is known around the globe by loyal West Virginia fans and folks who have never set foot in our great state," Ruby said.
"By harnessing the song’s worldwide recognition and coveted lyrics, we’re able to captivate a larger audience and invite more and more people to visit and discover their own version of heaven – right here in West Virginia."
The Tourism Office was also named as a finalist for the Industry and Strategic Partnership Mercury Award for its Cooperative Advertising Program.
The Almost Heaven campaign launched in April 2018 and was inspired by John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” The campaign’s goal is to increase first-time visits to the state and promote West Virginia as a four-season travel destination.
“The Almost Heaven campaign has been in the market for a little over a year, and we’ve seen tremendous results,” Ruby said.
“But, rest assured, we’re just getting started. Thanks to the momentum behind this campaign and Governor Justice’s continued support, West Virginia will, without a doubt, be the next top tourism destination for years to come.”
To view the winning television commercial, click here.