We asked readers if they could improve upon the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau slogan "PHL: Here for the Making," which lost us at PHL. And they could. They did.
Contrary to perception, suggestions swelled with love, pride, and more love.
Readers submitted drawings, photos, poems, jingles, a veritable coffeehouse of regional cheer. The enterprise was notable for its altruism. We offered no prizes, not even beer. And no one asked. (OK, a couple of people asked.)
The lack of remuneration was intentional: To show the PHLCVB (which needs help with that acronym) and its rival, VisitPhilly - "With Love, Philadelphia, XOXO®" - don't need to pay big bucks for failed slogans or trademarked kisses. Both organizations have $12 million annual budgets, funded by a hotel tax, to often duplicate and complicate their missions.
Some reader entries display a punishing level of creative orthography, emphatic alliteration, and grammatical misdemeanors. If there is never another word forcibly spelled with ph - phun, phorever, phantastic - it will be too soon.
What makes a slogan sing? Simplicity. Brevity. Wit.
What sinks a slogan? Verbosity. Phun. PHL. Also, comparisons to New York, Detroit, or Paris. We're not. Get over it.
Some residents wonder why a slogan is even necessary: Let the city speak for itself, at which we excel, especially while watching Phillies and Eagles games. "Since none in the past have ever been much good, and I doubt anyone pays attention to them, why have one?" asked Gardner Cadwalader. Quipped Fred Lavner: "Philadelphia: We manufacture slogans, nothing else."
Philadelphia has an ideal slogan in its name, City of Brotherly Love, which cannot be said of New York, Chicago (which means, we kid not, "striped skunk" and "smelly wild onion"), or even Boston (Yankee for smug). Brotherly Love is glorious. Then marketing types, as is their wont, mess with it.
"America's Hometown," a runner-up in the Daily News' 1992 slogan contest, is a reader favorite. Mine, too: short, powerful, evocative.
Our esteemed judges - who, unlike members of Traffic Court, were not rewarded with shellfish and porn - favored entries that exhibit attitude or, more precisely, Don DeMarco's "Attytude! With or Without," though perhaps it should be cheesesteaked to be "wit or witout."
Former Inquirer food scribe Rick Nichols' "Philly: It's Real. You Got a Problem With That?" has an Always Sunny luster. Brendan Hickey's "Yo, America!" displays moxie, as does the pithy "Yo!" Picture billboards and ads featuring a juxtaposition of "Yo!" with images of the orchestra, opera, and art museums, a play of the city's highbrows and yo's.
Ironic entries, and there were plenty, include Ivan Leigh's "Comcastic Philadelphia," Vincent Haas' "Cholera Free Since 1866," and Faye Peel's "Philadelphia: Go to Bell" - a pun with attytude. Kevin Sweeney offers a couple of favorites. He observes, with PGW and school buildings for sale, "Philadelphia. It's all yours, for a price." With the region's lack of mobility, he suggests: "Visit Philadelphia. We're not going anywhere."
Among the few printable philly.com suggestions: "Philadelphia: It's somebody else's fault," particularly true in local politics, and "Philadelphia: Where our sports teams sometimes play to win." Or, with the Sixers, generally not. One reader submitted a record 34 wry suggestions, including "Philadelphia: We got cheesesteaks. You want history with that?" and "Philadelphia: She's really beautiful. Under certain lighting conditions."
Jon Stewart's recent Philadelphia rant includes this marketable catchphrase: "A city so $%&*ing dumb it uses its art museum as exercise equipment." Which, excuse us, is (a) inspired and (b) performed mostly by tourists.
Robin Gorneau delivers a clever suggestion with "the town that rocked the nation," a line from the Hooters' "Beat Up Guitar." That's the 1989 ditty that wisely observes, "You can't get to heaven on the Frankford El."
Bells are big, as is our heritage. Smart submissions include Jerome Clement's "Philadelphia: Still Making History." Lisa Weinstein's "Philly: Where Freedom Rings," and the wordy but sort of wifty "Boston fired the first shot, but the job wasn't done until Philadelphia did the paperwork."
Amy Finkel proposes "Philadelphia: Even More Than It's Cracked Up to Be." We are also fond of Nichols' Mad magazine-like "Cracked: But in a Good Way." The best of the legacy group is Mike Salmanson's "We make history. Come make yours."
Several readers suggested a turn on W.C. Fields' famed maxim of his hometown: "All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."
In the slogan world, love has been done to death, and done better by New York and Virginia. How can such an attitudinal place promise love? We prefer getting to happy.
The winner, from Gregory Roach, was hiding in plain sight in the Declaration of Independence, and suggests history, importance, but also currency and vitality:
"Philadelphia: Life, Liberty, Pursue Happiness."
Imagine a triptych of images, which saves the best for last: "Philadelphia: Pursue Happiness." Which is nigh onto perfect.