Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Does the Spirit move you?

        Surely we deserve better than this latest baffling attempt to give our hometown a national identity. Let the Spirit Move You. What kind of image is that? Casper the Friendly Ghost behind the wheel of a Ryder truck? A kinder, gentler Metamucil? A carefully disguised religious message? Can't we be more direct?

        We are, after all, the city that sold soap with a straightforward: “99 and 44/100ths percent pure.” And boldly announced “the wiener the world awaited.”

        We have been the Queen City. We have been the Blue Chip City, with the unstated but clear message: “We're safe, we're stuffy, we're proud of it.”

Free from embarrassment
               Now, the Partnership for Greater Cincinnati is expected to unveil an ad campaign next month with the theme, “Let the Spirit Move You.” There are two things I admire about this slogan. No. 1: I did not pay for it.

        And No. 2: It is not genuinely embarrassing. It's not as if they were saying something like, “Cincinnati — the Hole that Ate Nordstrom.”

        Or “Cincinnati — Not as Repressed as You Heard.”

        Money for this relentlessly tested and homogenized campaign will come from about 200 companies throughout the region. “The slogan is just one part of an effort to focus on what this community is all about,” says Joe Kramer, vice president for economic development at the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.

        “We're still beating ourselves up over Mike Brown and Marge Schott. We need to make it easier to say nice things about Cincinnati. It's what we can say to our kids, our business connections, our Aunt Martha.”

        Right. This should work. Hey, don't count on me to pick you up at the airport. Let the spirit move you.

Famous potatoes
               Mark Serrianne, CEO of Northlich agency, which has worked on the project, calls the phrase a “work in progress.” He says it has “passed the test of a thousand experts.” Maybe the unquestionably talented Northlich folks had to deal with one expert too many.

        The proof, of course, is whether a slogan sells the product. Got Milk? or M'm! M'm! Good! or The Pause that Refreshes.

        Cities are more complicated than milk or soup or cola, but some manage to get their point across in something that fits on your bumper. For instance, “Las Vegas — 24/7” and “Philadelphia, the City that Loves You Back.” Distinctive. Slogans that wouldn't work anywhere else. For years, Idaho said simply: “Famous Potatoes.”

        Part of the assignment was to come up with something with a wide, diverse application. Maybe that's the problem. A message that works for Joe Kramer's Aunt Martha might not be the best sales pitch for a company thinking of bringing its headquarters here.

        Vanity Fair lingerie changed emphasis when the company discovered that its best customer was an aging baby boomer. Its slogan became: “At last, you're comfortable.”

        Even more direct, a coin laundry marketed itself to college students using the slogan: “You threw up on yourself. We can help.”

        In 1964, Barry Goldwater's campaign ads said: “In your heart, you know he's right.” It backfired. The response from Democrats was: “In your guts, you know he's nuts.”

        I can see it now. “Let the Spirit Move you. To Indianapolis.”
        E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call (513) 768-8393.


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