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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  March 26, 2006
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Say What?

I hope that Iím wrong here. Completely out in left field. Clueless. But when I heard that our new state slogan for tourism was going to be "Say WA," the first thing my mind registered was silence.

Mind you, not a good silence like the one associated with quiet, which is pleasant. It was more the silence of when you pick up the phone and thereís no dial tone, which is uncomfortable and a little exasperating.

According to state officials, "Say WA" is supposed to be "the sound of jaws dropping" and is what one might hear "when an experience becomes emotional." Here in Washington, "these moments form a plentitude, a series of endless discoveries, and each will make you ĎSay WAí in a new and different way."

As I understand it, "Say WA" wasnít something that just sprang into being.

No one at any ad agency looked over at "Bill" and said, "Hey, weíve got the contract for Washingtonís new tourism slogan. Get me something by Friday. Has to be short and sweet"

"Right, boss. Iím all over it. Short. Sweet. Due by Friday."

Nope, the new slogan was the product of almost a year and a half of effort. More than 30 people worked on it. The group included individuals in advertising, tourism, business, and directors of various Chambers of Commerce. The group included good, solid people who care about Washington and who want to bring tourists to this state. So they sat down to come up with a catchy new slogan.

I know that the effort was real and that the discussions were serious. I know that many other slogans were considered and rejected. I know that no one in that group wanted to do anything less than produce a slogan that would have people panting with desire to come visit Washington. The problem is I also know that committees are where good ideas go to die.

Now, after hearing "Say WA" and the response itís receiving, I canít help but form the mental image of an advertising executive sitting alone in an empty office. There, heís thinking "Maybe itís not too late to go with the second choice."

As I said, I hope that Iím wrong here. I hope that "Say WA" turns out to be the smartest slogan to hit the streets in the past twenty years.

The trouble is, my gut doesnít think so. What it tells me is that "Say WA" is more likely to disappear into the "just didnít work" ad closet as soon as a new slogan can be found to replace it.

One very minor reason for this is that too many of us also remember it as being something akin to the sound made when someone half in the bag tries to use the phrase "Say what?"

Still, I hope the feelings I get whenever I hear this new slogan come from my being too accustomed to phrases like "Virginia is for lovers" or "I love New York" Ė both of which are simple and readily understandable.

I hope that the silence with which my mind greets "Say WA" is because Iím: (a) no longer able to "get it," and (b) really slow on the uptake.

Unfortunately, I keep hearing others saying pretty much the same thing.

I did a bit of non-scientific sampling and tried "Say WA" on some friends at work. Their responses ranged from: "Youíve got to be kidding!" and "They spent money on that?" to a more curious "Is it too late to fix it?"

Such are probably not the responses the slogan committee was hoping for.

So, now, what weíre likely to hear is a lot of explaining designed to convince us that "Say WA" is a killer idea.

But if you have to spend time and energy explaining the benefits of something that should need no explaining, maybe itís time to try something else.

Maybe they could go back, trim the committee down to two or three people who are good with words, lock them in a room, and tell them they wonít be let out until they come up with a new slogan.

If Iím wrong about this one, I promise Iíll be the first to write an apology to the entire group that produced "Say WA."

But the silence in my mind gets louder every time I hear it.

And I donít expect a dial tone any time soon.

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright © 2006 by Larry Simoneaux
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