No 'Friend' Car License Plates To Return To 'keystone State' Slogan

Posted: September 15, 1987

HARRISBURG — The Casey administration, which is considering ending the state's ubiquitous "You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania" slogan, announced yesterday that the phrase would no longer be printed on car license plates.

Instead, the state will return to plates containing only the words Pennsylvania and Keystone State, as well as the numbers and letters comprising the vehicle registration.

Except for the position of the two words and the color combination (from blue lettering on a gold background to gold on blue), the new plates will be no different from four million pre-"You've Got a Friend" tags still in use.

Rather than a general reissue of license plates for eight million registered vehicles, the state will phase in the new plates, meaning drivers may continue to use their "Friend" tags.

The chinking away at "You've Got a Friend" - much maligned by grammarians - comes at a time when state tourist promotion and economic development officials are studying whether to retain the slogan.

Yesterday's announcement applies only to license plates and not to billboards and promotional materials. The slogan came into use during the reign of former Gov. Dick Thornburgh and was put on license plates in 1983.

Andrew Greenburg, associate director of the state Economic Development Partnership, said the decision to remove the slogan stemmed from a determination that license plates, with an eight- to 10-year lifespan, outlive marketing strategies.

"We believe strongly that the development of a strong, aggressive and dynamic marketing strategy is much more important than any slogan," Greenburg said.

Greenburg said state officials, working with Elkman Advertising of Bala Cynwyd, would decide by the end of November on the future of "You've Got a Friend," as well as an overall marketing strategy for the state.

Also yesterday, the administration announced the availability of a special vanity license plate commemorating the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.

The plate will contain the words We the People at the top and Pennsylvania at the bottom, with an insignia of a scroll and quill pen, as well as the years 1787 and 1987, to the left of the registration numbers and letters.

Like the 18 other vanity plates issued by the state, recognizing everything

from volunteer firefighters to Masonic lodges, the "We the People" plate will cost $20. Annual vehicle registration is $24.

For the first time, the state will permit the use of credit cards and calls to a toll-free number (1-800-782-7997) to order the "We the People" plates, which will be available only until Dec. 31.

Of the 1.2 million license plates issued each year, between 40,000 and 50,000 are special or vanity plates. All plates are made, at a cost of $1.03 apiece, at the State Correctional Institution in Pittsburgh.

The cost to the state to set up production of the new "Keystone" plate will be slightly more than $700. Had state officials decided on a general reissue of plates, rather than a phase-out of "You've Got a Friend" plates, the cost would have been $15 million, officials said.

New "Keystone" plates will be available by the end of the month. They can be ordered for $5.

The last general reissue of plates took place in 1977, when the four-year- old Bicentennial plates were replaced by the blue-on-gold "Keystone" plates.

The state's "You've Got a Friend" license plates were a favorite topic of Gov. Casey during his campaign for governor last year. Especially in economically hard-hit areas of the state, such as Western Pennsylvania, Casey vowed he would "melt down" the license plates when he became governor and replace the slogan with "You've Got a Job in Pennsylvania."

Greenburg, who was an issues adviser to Casey during the campaign, said the comments should not be taken literally.

"The governor's pronouncements on the subject during the campaign were part of a forceful symbolic commitment to economic development," Greenburg said. "We don't believe that at any point did his comments during the campaign commit him to changing the license plates."

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