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Jewish World Review
August 24, 2006
/ 30 Menachem-Av, 5766
Phrased and Confused
The newspaper industry comes in for a lot of criticism, but no one can question our
commitment to recycling. For one thing, we publish on paper that is easily
repurposed, whether into other paper products, bird cage lining or a rolled up tool
to discourage the dog from soiling the hall carpet. Why, we even recycle the
material inside the paper by reprinting many of the same stories year after year,
merely changing the names and dates where appropriate. It's a real time-saver when
we can simply cut and paste our most frequently used headlines like "Mideast Peace
Talks Break Down," "Congressman Denies Corruption Charge" and "Former Child Star
My favorite such "déjà vu story" would have to be the controversy that inevitably
erupts every time a state tourism bureau asks residents for help coming up with a
new state slogan. Just this past year we've seen lengthy campaigns that resulted in
new slogans like Indiana's racing-themed "Restart Your Engines," Utah's lofty "Life
Elevated," Pennsylvania's deliciously irrelevant "I Brake for Shoo-fly Pie" and
Washington's inexplicable "Say WA!" So why do states make such a fuss over their
slogans? I think it's simple because state tourism bureau employees clearly
understand that state residents who are concerning themselves with a new slogan are
state residents who are not concerning themselves with all the tax dollars being
wasted by the state tourism bureau.
New Jersey's recent effort was typical. After receiving thousands of entries,
officials narrowed the options to five, and then put it out to a statewide vote. The
eventual winner was "New Jersey: Come See For Yourself," which barely beat out
challengers like "New Jersey: The Best Kept Secret," "New Jersey: Expect The
Unexpected" and "New Jersey: What The %#$& Are You Lookin' At?"
Whatever choice they make, states regularly come in for criticism from residents who
feel that a new slogan won't actually do anything to encourage tourism. Truthfully,
has anyone ever made vacation travel plans based on a state slogan ("Honey, I know
you wanted to go to Tahiti this year, but at least according to this brochure, North
Carolina is "A better place to be")?
That doesn't mean slogans are meaningless, however. Why, just imagine what our
nation's cultural identity would be without the historically significant phrases we
all remember like "Give me liberty or give me death," "Remember the Alamo," and
"You're not fully clean until you're Zest-fully clean."
I'm also sympathetic to prospective sloganeers because I understand the challenge
involved in trying to get a new slogan to catch on with the public. A few years ago
I tried to persuade everyone I knew to employ my clever signature phrase, "That
really burns my bagel," as a means of expressing frustration. Sadly, my efforts at
coining a new catch phrase failed. In retrospect, I could point to any number of
reasons for my failure (lack of properly targeted marketing, shortage of funds, a
stupid idea to begin with, etc.) but the biggest is that I rarely even used the
phrase myself. In fact, the only time I ever remembered was on mornings when I
happened to you guessed it - burn my bagel. If only I'd thought to install a
webcam over my toaster, I might well have inspired the next "Wazzzzup!"
But getting back to New Jersey, the state's slogan woes only worsened when someone
discovered that "Come See For Yourself" had already been used by other states,
including West Virginia. Having abandoned the phrase to avoid potential legal
issues, New Jersey finds itself slogan-less. Experts estimate that this deficiency
may be costing the state dozens of tourist dollars every day. But not to worry, New
Jersey residents, because I have a simple solution. And no, it's not "New Jersey:
That really burns my bagel." Although at least they'd know that one hadn't been used
Instead, my suggestion is to take a cue from the newspaper industry and recycle.
Find an old slogan that no one's using anymore, preferably one that's already
associated with a celebrity, and redeploy it in service of your state. I guarantee
that for a fraction of what was spent on the old slogan, the Garden State could hire
Jimmy "J.J." Walker for a huge multimedia campaign of "New Jersey: It's Dy-No-Mite!"
Or how about Blossom's Joey Lawrence's face on billboards across the country
exclaiming "New Jersey: Whoa!" And what prospective tourist could resist the
temptation to find out in person the answer to Gary Coleman's rhetorical question,
"What'choo talkin' 'bout, Jersey?"
Ideally, New Jersey would use all of these campaigns. Not only would the state save
precious tax dollars, but they'd also perform a valuable service by keeping many of
the nation's former child stars out of the criminal justice system. At least until
the next round of Mideast peace talks, anyway.
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JWR contributor Malcolm Fleschner is a humor columnist for The DC Examiner. Let him know what you think by clicking here.
08/09/06: We're Gonna Party Like it's $19.99
07/19/06: Just Singing in the Brain
05/24/06: Who says you can't go home again?
05/11/06: When nightly news stories go off script
04/26/06: Cents and sensibility: A thought for your pennies
03/16/06: The day the Muzak died
02/23/06: Checkbook diplomacy begins at home
02/15/06: Today's toys: Where learning means earning
© 2006, Malcolm Fleschner