by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
January 15, 2006
MASSACHUSETTS: TOO LONG TO SPELL RIGHT
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- Think real hard. Does your city or state have a slogan?
I don't mean the state motto, found on your state seal. I mean the catchy little slogan your state's Tourism Office uses to entice hordes of tourists to clog up your highways and restaurants.
My home state's slogan is "Enjoy Indiana - The Welcome Mat Is Always Out," although one website thinks it should be "Indiana: 2 Billion Years Tidal Wave Free."
And while the real Indiana slogan is much more and inviting, I think more tourists would consider spending a week here when they learn about our complete lack of tidal activity throughout recorded history.
So why is any of this important?
Simple. Look at your official tourism slogan. Could you have written it yourself?
Of course you could have.
Could you have done it for, say, less than $1,000?
So this makes me wonder how the State of Massachusetts could only come up with "Massachusetts... Make it Yours" in exchange for a $300,000 retainer.
According to an October 17, 2002 story in the Boston Herald (official slogan: "Boston Herald... We Use Ink!"), Massachusetts state tourism officials originally held a contest asking people to submit their ideas for a "concise and memorable" slogan that would help attract tourists.
Some of the ideas included "Massachusetts: Where Freedom Begins," and "Come Share the Common Wealth."
I would have submitted "Massachusetts: We're 'Chewy' in the Center," but no one asked me.
But like most bureaucrats, Paul Sacco, the new Travel and Tourism director, thought he knew best. So he asked the state's advertising firm - which received the $300,000 retainer from Sacco's office - to come up with something much more bland and vague.
Okay, he didn't really ask for that, but that's what he got.
"Massachusetts ... Make it Yours" was unveiled to an underwhelming response from state and regional tourism leaders who had originally hoped an exciting slogan would jump start their ailing tourism industry.
Ironically, Sacco was on vacation at the time of the unveiling, so he couldn't be reached for comment.
Maybe I don't know enough about tourism, but it seems to me that a slogan isn't going to boost an ailing tourism industry anymore than setting a giant purple blow-up gorilla on the Massachusetts state line.
Husband: Where would you like to go on vacation this year, dear?
Wife: Well, honey, I was hoping we could take a walking tour of European castles, but then I saw Massachusetts new travel slogan, and decided I wanted to go there instead.
Husband: You're right. Who wants to go see a 500-year-old castle in some exotic foreign locale, when we could visit the bar from 'Cheers'?" And we can wave to the gorilla on Interstate 90.
State officials described the new slogan as a "composite" of ideas from the public, but one official acknowledged that the state agency came up with "Make it Yours" all on their own.
I guess the composite part was that nearly every submission had "Massachusetts" in it.
But while some may argue that it was a waste of time and money to have an ad agency on retainer generate those three little words (and don't forget the ... ellipse!), it's not nearly as bad as Rochester, New York's problem.
According to Bob Lonsberry, Rochester columnist and radio talk show host, city officials decided they needed a slogan. So, rather than reduce the high crime rate, overly strict business regulations, high taxes, and fix failing schools, city officials spent $400,000 and came up with "Rochester. Made for living" instead.
That's $100,000 per word, including the name of the city. Not too shabby for a day's work.
While some of you may be surprised that Rochester spent more than Massachusetts on their slogan, the extra money probably paid for a higher-caliber writer who didn't need to stick an ellipse in a four-word sentence. Hey, you get what you pay for.
But this made me realize that governmental and social reforms are not the miracle cure politicians claim they are. It's actually slogans that lead to prosperity. And I think Rochester may be onto something.
In fact, I am so impressed with their creative new approach to fixing city-wide problems that I believe with all my heart that "Rochester. Made for living" will turn their city around.
Schools will have more resources and teachers will be paid what they're worth. Crime will suddenly plummet as criminals realize, "They're right! Rochester is made for living!" And the CEOs of large corporations will say, "Forget about cheap foreign labor! We've got to build our new factory in Rochester! It's made for living!"
So how much better could it be if they use the giant purple gorilla?
i>Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting one of his columns
from December 2002 to fill the empty hole in our hearts until he returns. Ahem.