Will Corbett take up cause for new state slogan?

Posted: July 10, 2012

Now that the state budget's done and the Legislature's gone and the summer season of vacation and tourism is here, I'm wondering whether Gov. Corbett follows the path of previous guvs and gives us a new state slogan.

I know it's not the most pressing state issue, what with cuts to general assistance recipients, unaddressed road and bridge woes and angst and lawsuits over the new voter-ID law.

But, hey, it is a state tradition.

Some guvs lay out a bunch of money, hire an ad agency to come up with a slogan and run an ad campaign to draw visitors to the state.

Other guvs hold slogan-naming contests, offering weeklong all-expenses-paid instate vacations for winners.

Either way, results are enjoyable, largely because the effort usually gets screwed up and makes for some fun; which might be one reason Corbett isn't rushing into the slogan fray.

History says be wary.

Our current state slogan, "The State of Independence," which we got in 2004, a year and two months after Ed Rendell took office, was a source of amusement.

For starters, it was announced a month after it was promised. But then Rendell never did budgets on time either.

It was selected from 22,000 public entries, including by schoolkids. Then, with four other "finalists," it won 33 percent of an online citizens' vote; hardly, therefore, a mandate.

And, it was a slogan already in use by the Swedish automaker Saab, as in "Saab, welcome to the state of independence."

(Saab since filed for bankruptcy.)

Also, "State of Independence" is a recording by Donna "Hot Stuff" Summer and electric musician Vangelis, who won an Oscar for the soundtrack of the 1981 film "Chariots of Fire."

But our current slogan — still gracing highway signs at our borders — is but one in a succession of troubled tourism themes.

Under Gov. Tom Ridge, the slogan "Memories Last a Lifetime" was the linchpin of a $3.4 million campaign by a Pittsburgh ad firm.

Problem was Ocean City, N.J., had for three years been using "Memories That Last a Lifetime" to lure folks to the Jersey Shore, including on billboards along eastern Pennsylvania highways.

Before that, Gov. Bob Casey's slogan was "America Starts Here," which clashed with the slogan of a New England regional tourism group that for years promoted visits with "America Begins in New England."

Worse, a Pennsylvania Magazine poll in 1990 found 62 percent didn't like Casey's slogan and nearly half wanted to return to Gov. Dick Thornburgh's grammatically incorrect "You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania."

And when Gov. Milton Shapp announced his new slogan, "Pennsylvania, Naturally," it was discovered that Vermont already was using "Vermont, Naturally."

Shapp, naturally, suggested a joint ad campaign, "Pennsylvania or Vermont, Naturally."

Other states have had winning slogans: "Virginia is for Lovers," "I Love New York," California's "The Golden State."

I even like Kansas' "There's No Place Like Home," except if you're not from Kansas it seems to urge you to stay home rather than visit.

I feel confident the that Corbett administration can come up with something better than a car ad (I'm actually surprised the Legislature in '04 didn't name Saab the official state car), and I'm even willing to offer a few suggestions.

I'm thinking "Come for the Fracking, Stay for the Toxins;" or "Pennsylvania: Bring Your Photo ID;" or "Our Potholes Will Move You;" or "Pennsylvania: Shell's A-Poppin."

I'm not so sure the guv wants my ideas. And a spokesman for the state tourism office says there are no immediate plans for a new slogan.

But, dear readers, perhaps the guv would like to see some of your thoughts.

For recent columns, go to philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at philly.com/BaerGrowls.

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