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For real

The City of Buffalo has long been the butt of jokes. Even my father, who’s from there, used to say that Buffalo came into being when “they cloned Cleveland.”

This week, there are new jokes as Buffalo—The City of Good Neighbors, The Queen City, The City of No Illusions, The Nickel City, Queen City of the Lakes, City of Light—takes on a new motto: “Buffalo For Real.”

I learned about this not from the city’s own announcement, which includes a new tourism video, but from the swell of snickers and criticisms from within Western New York and around the country. The blogosphere bubbles with mockery while Twitter tee-hees abound.

Advertising Age slammed the slogan, calling it meaningless. (But do check out their map of the most absurd city slogans in the United States.) Buffalonians don’t appear to be crazy about it either, but they’ve been quick to come to the defense of their city, as they are often called to do, pointing to the depth of Buffalo’s history and culture. One commenter suggested “Buffalo: Leave for the weather, come back for everything else.” Commenters from other cities were cruel (“Denver: at least it’s not Buffalo”), while others were happy to be out of the spotlight for their own cities’ inane slogans.

But back to Buffalo For Real. If the city’s marketeers had consulted me, I’d have suggested some punctuation. Mabye a comma or a colon following Buffalo. On the surface, “Buffalo For Real” does sound a little meaningless. But if you look at the campaign, there’s a broader theme: Buffalo for art, Buffalo for architecture, Buffalo for families, Buffalo for food, for nature, for history, for shopping, for sports, for performing arts. The tourism video addresses the “real” part. The narration holds the city’s past troubles and blemishes up to the light and assures visitors of the vast rejuvenation taking place. “We’ve had our share of hard knocks.” “Some might say that time has left our town behind.” “Neighborhoods given up for dead are being given new life.” Even the snow has an honored place in the script.

Juxtaposed against tourist destinations in which weather is the draw, with little authenticity behind sun and spa, Buffalo stands out as real. Blue collar and white collar workers alike have withstood decades of economic devastation and year after year of bone-chilling temperatures. The people remain ever cheerful, trust me. The city by Niagara Falls has a lot to be proud of.

I like the new slogan. I just wish the video had been narrated by someone with a Buffalo accent.

Now that would be real.

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