by Jim Harris
Philadelphia tourism has been the subject of some pretty bizarre marketing campaigns over the years. In 2001 there were the “Philly’s More Fun When You Sleep Over” TV commercials that showed people walking around the city in their pajamas.
Earlier this year, the “With Art Philadelphia” campaign was trotted out. They liked that phrase so much they trademarked it, which was probably unnecessary, since no one knew what it meant.
Then, just last week the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (catchy new acronym: PHLCVB) announced that in partnership with a local marketing firm, they had come up with a new “global message” for Philadelphia. If they had asked me, I would have recommend that they hire Clint Eastwood to direct the new TV ads since Clint is definitely available. Ever since Mitt Romney lost the election, all Eastwood does is stand around all day talking to an empty chair.
But they did not ask me. Instead, they came up with a new marketing concept that “PHL” (shorthand for Philadelphia) is the “Modern Renaissance City.” As part of their new “Modern Renaissance City” campaign, PHLCVB put out a three-minute video that features supermodels shopping in trendy stores and fantasy hipsters dancing on rooftops like wind-up toy monkeys. You, know, just like everyday life in Kensington. Oh, and the only character over 30 years old in the video is a statue of George Washington. I guess old people don’t figure in the new PHL.
The PHLCVB website also contains a feature called “Inspired Itineraries,” which suggests what sites famous Philadelphians might frequent if they hadn’t all moved away. One item on their website menu actually begins with, “Will Smith might live in L.A., but his stomach still belongs to Philadelphia.” Great; maybe they should erect a statue of Will’s stomach outside the Art Museum next to Rocky. In addition, there are “six narrative pillars” on which the new Philadelphia “brand” is built:
•Freedom, democracy and America
•Innovation and education
•Outdoor life and sports
•Vibrant street life
•Accessible and friendly
If I might just respond with a few bullet points of my own to add to the new advertising/marketing campaign:
•One-party political system, sort of like the Soviet Union or Communist China
•Area hospitals lead the country in treatment of gunshot injuries.
•If you had one dollar for every non-corrupt Traffic Court judge in Philly, you’d have no money. (I was once fined $50 downtown for “driving without a valid reason.”)
•Most corrupt public officials north of Mexico
•But on the plus side, our politicians are not quite as corrupt as the Mafia.
•Watching Eagles play is only slightly less enjoyable than watching your farm blow away in a dust storm.
•A visit to City Hall is like a visit to Dante’s Inferno.
•A subway system only Charles Bronson could love
•Cheesesteaks must be ordered in English.
•Fewer murders in Philly this year than in Syria
•By law, no more than 70 percent of any neighborhood’s residents may be obese.
•Public school system would have to improve to get up to Third World level.
And last but not least,
•3 words: Philadelphia Parking Authority
Bottom line: don’t come here unless you’re tough enough to take what the city has to dish out. Let’s face it, the Quaker City has always been parochial, and we don’t need no stinkin’ tourists.
These days, when I’m traveling through Center City after dark and I see all the young suburbanites and tourists packed to the curb like sardines, I’m reminded of Frank Sinatra’s comment when he wandered out onto the stage at the Spectrum in 1986, drink in hand, and muttered, “How’d all these people get in my living room?”
I want to shake these delusional revelers and bring them to their senses. I want to say, “Hey, what are you doing? Dining on the sidewalk? Are you nuts? I’m walkin’ here! This ain’t no Paris, and it sure ain’t the freakin’ Renaissance. I was born in Philly. What’s your excuse?”
Now how’s THAT for an advertising campaign?