Man Behind Famous “I Love New York” Marketing Campaign Dies at 84
Anyone who has lived in or visited New York at any point during the last 40 plus years has heard, at least a few thousand times, the phrase, “I Love New York,” but few knew the genius behind the campaign. His name was Bobby Zarem and he passed away on September 26, 2021, at the age of 84.
Born in Savannah, Georgia on September 30, 1936, Bobby Zaren attended Yale University, and following his graduation, he set his sights on the Big Apple. As a boy, Zarem often visited New York City with his parents and became enthralled by all it had to offer. Little did that young boy know he would one day play a huge role in creating one of the most recognizable campaigns in all of the world - the "I Love New York" campaign.
Zeram became a publicist for the famous including Dustin Hoffman, Cher, Michael Jackson, Michael Douglas, and several others but the idea for “I Love New York” struck one evening when he was walking home after enjoying dinner at a Manhattan restaurant.
It was a Saturday in 1975 and Zarem realized there was virtually no sign of life in the city he so dearly loved. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter Zarem said, "you could have rolled a coin down the street and nobody would have stopped it. The city was dying. Something had to be done." It was in that moment that the "I Love New York" campaign was born.
Zarem perused every contact he had and was able to come up with $16 million dollars from friends and even clients such as Frank Sinatra, Carrie Fisher and Gilda Radner to launch the campaign which would eventually be credited with saving the City but it wasn't without controversy. Advertising executive Mary Wells Lawrence and even the late Mayor Ed Koch both claimed credit for the campaign, but Zarem always brushed aside their claims and stood his ground to tell anyone and everyone that it was he would came up with the idea.
While there never was a concise answer of exactly who it was that came up with the "I Love New York campaign, over 40 years later, it is Zarem who is most widely recognized as the mastermind.
On Sunday, September 26, 2021, just four days shy of his 85th birthday, Zarem passed away from complications of lung cancer. Zarem never married and had no children.