- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2006

NASHVILLE, Tenn.

In a new television commercial promoting Tennessee tourism, a dashing young Elvis Presley drives his red Corvette Stingray convertible in a clip from his 1967 film “Clambake.”

This time, though, the bouffant blonde riding shotgun has a familiar Appalachian twang.

Music icon Dolly Parton appears with Mr. Presley in a digital insertion that marks what Tennessee officials say is the first time he has digitally appeared with another celebrity in a television commercial.

“It’s like a dream team for Tennessee tourism,” says Susan Whitaker, the state’s tourism development commissioner.

“I’ve played a lot of stages over the years, but there’s one I never get tired of that’s set for a great time day or night — Tennessee,” Miss Parton says before an announcer chimes in over scenes of Graceland, the Great Smoky Mountains and several other Tennessee attractions.

Then Miss Parton turns to Mr. Presley and says, “Let’s pick it up a little bit, honey. There’s all kinds of things to do in Tennessee. But next time, let’s take the pink Cadillac.”

Miss Whitaker says the ad was conceived by the Memphis advertising agency Chandler Ehrlich and had to be approved by Elvis Presley Enterprises and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). The process took about six months.

“We had to show Elvis Presley Enterprises the storyboard, show them the idea,” she says. “They were interested that it would be Dolly, someone of the same legendary status. They liked the way it was put together.”

The ad is being aired in 14 cities within easy driving distance of Tennessee, including St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Louisville, Ky., and Birmingham, Ala.

In those markets, it temporarily replaces TV spots with Miss Parton and soul singer Isaac Hayes that were part of an initiative begun two years ago with the slogan “Tennessee, the Stage Is Set for You.”

After a few weeks, the new ad will go into rotation with the older ones.

Miss Whitaker says the Presley-Parton ad was made possible with a one-time $4.5 million advertising supplement pushed by Gov. Phil Bredesen last year.

Despite rising gasoline prices, Miss Whitaker says she expects a successful tourism season.

“When you look at the history, as long as there is the availability of gasoline, we still have tons of people coming,” she says. “We’re within a day’s drive of two-thirds the population. They consider this a convenient getaway.”

Tennessee hosted 44 million visitors in 2004, and tourism is a nearly $11 billion industry for the state, employing more than 177,000 workers, according to the Department of Tourist Development.

Tourism officials say Tennessee jumped one spot in 2004, to No. 11 on a list of most-visited states, passing Nevada and its top tourist destination, Las Vegas.

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