The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Saturday, November 22, 2003  

Not Just in Philadelphia, But in Pennsylvania, Too

In case you didn’t notice, and for that you cannot be blamed, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce last month adopted a new slogan, catch phrase, or tag line, what have you, to promote business and development in “Greater Philadelphia,” which, keeping in line with the city -- and region’s -- perpetual state of misguidance, apparently is a place and not an aspiration.

It goes like this, if you can believe it: “Select Greater Philadelphia: The Place to Prosper.”

According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, that smart, sprite, snappy, rolls-right-off-your-tongue slogan will be the center of “a $16[-]million, four-year branding effort designed to bring businesses to the region.”

I’m speechless. This is garbage. Trash. Junk. Nonsense.

And I’m dubious. Forgive me for predicting that “Select Greater Philadelphia: The Place to Prosper” isn’t prose-worthy or even slogan-worthy enough, to say nothing of sufficiently “sponge-worthy,” to knock anyone over, let alone draw anyone’s attention, nor, worse, bring any business to “Greater Philadelphia,” neither the city nor the region, the place, that is, nor, heaven forbid, the aspiration.

But nobody asked me.

Now, though, they, or at least their kindred sprits (or colleagues) in the field, are sort of asking. Or at least their proxy, the governor, is.

As recently announced, Pennsylvania, the commonwealth thereof, not the state, because there’s no such thing, under the direction and guidance of Gov. Edward Rendell (D), is hunting about for a new slogan, a message to welcome visitors through the 36 billboards that greet travelers entering the Keystone Commonwealth State.

In and of itself that last statement is mystifying: Though occupying an area of 46 thousand square miles and bordering such abundantly populated states as New York, Ohio, New Jersey, and Maryland, Pennsylvania has placed just 36 just billboards welcoming visitors here?

[I think R.J. Reynolds has more billboards than that just in West Philly. Boards that read, at least subliminally, something like, “Salem: Feel the Excitement, You Stupid Still-Smoking Negro.” Why are there no similar billboards in Philadelphia’s “gayborhood”? Saying something like, “Benson & Hedges: Live (And Then Die) the Classy Image, You Gullible Faggot”?]

And people elsewhere call Pennsylvanians insular and parochial? How dare they?

Well, we do need a new slogan, if only because nobody can recall what the current one is. As Philadelphia Daily News columnist John Baer reported this week (“Name-That-Slogan Contest Has a Good Ring, Ed”), there is justifiable confusion, and Pennsylvania’s history in this area is a little, well, checkered:

Gov. Milton Shapp’s “Pennsylvania, Naturally” turned out to be Vermont’s slogan. Gov. Dick Thornburgh’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania” is grammatically incorrect and scared people away (they thought it was a reference to then-Rep. Stephen Friend. [Ed.: Inside, er, joke. Google it.] Gov. Bob Casey’s “America Starts Here” never started anything. And Gov. Tom Ridge’s “Memories Last a Lifetime” already belonged to Wildwood [N.J.], which for too many means bad memories. [Ed.: Amen to that, brother.]

But as Baer notes, Pennsylvania’s not the only state (or commonwealth) with, at the very least, an image problem. He writes:

Other, funnier states have joke slogans.

Alabama: Yes, we have electricity. Arkansas: Literacy ain’t everything. Mississippi: Come, feel better about your state. And the ever-popular Nevada: Whores & poker!

Baer’s suggestions in light of that:

One wants to offer, Pennsylvania: It’s Alabama-plus, or Potholes Last a Lifetime, or Cooking with Coal, or Bring Your Own Doctor, or, as suggested on the Web site Political State Report, “Pennsylvania: ‘Deliverance’ with Scrapple.”

Anyway, as Baer and others have suggested, if you have an idea of your own -- and if I’m going to rant about this, I’d better come up with one myself -- head to VisitPA to complete your entry form. (Ugh, yet another misuse of a two-digit postal abbreviation in a setting in which it clearly doesn’t belong.)

You could win a week’s vacation in Pennsylvania valued at $5,000! (No wisecracks, please? There really is a lot to see and do here.)

There’s actually a second contest for “grade school kids.” I’m not exactly sure what that phrase means in this context, since a 4th-grader’s slogan is likely, as demonstrated above with respect to greater Philadelphia and prospering and whatever, to be at least as good as that created by months of effort from a room full of “marketing experts.” According to Baer, “The winning grade school class entry goes on specialty license plates with proceeds of plate sales paying for school computers.” What? No vacation? No percentage of sales?

You have until December 17. Hop on it! Or, as long-time Philadelphians would say, “Ho-ohp awnnit!”

[Post-publication addendum (December 3): David Raitt of The Raitt Stuff notes that civic promotion is being handled, probably not surprisingly, even more strangely in Pittsburgh, which has not a slogan but both “a core theme” and “a brand promise.” I always thought western Pennsylvania’s metropolis should adopt something along the lines of “Pittsburgh: It’s Not as Bad as You Think.” And it really isn’t.]

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