For a nation that seems to have lived on slogans almost all its 63 years of history, we Indonesians really suck when it comes to inventing one to promote ourselves abroad.
After a somewhat successful Visit Indonesia Year 2008 -- at least that is what tourism officials claim -- the government has extended the program and declared 2009 another Visit Indonesia Year.
This time, however, the government has yet to come up with a slogan, or has yet to publicly announce one.
Just as well, perhaps. This year, we came up with the worst slogan one could ever imagine for our tourism campaign: "Celebrating 100 Years of National Awakening."
It is doubtful if the increase in tourist arrivals in 2008 was due to this slogan. Most visitors would likely have been perplexed by it. Many Indonesians, for that matter, had no clear idea what it was exactly we were celebrating this year (yes, we suck at history too).
The slogan is painted on the tails of flag carrier Garuda Indonesia's planes, as well as at various tourist attractions. But most airline passengers would not care so much about the national awakening celebration as about the pilot being awake and getting them to their destinations safe and sound.
"Celebrating" is a slogan even a marketing novice would refrain from using because not only is it too long, and therefore not catchy, but it is also incomprehensible.
This is even after the government saved itself from a very embarrassing situation when the Financial Times reported before the launch of VIY 2008 that the original slogan, "Celebrating 100 Years of Nation's Awakening", was grammatically incorrect.
Why couldn't we have come up with or settled for something simple, catchy and that really encompasses Indonesia? Surely this is not for lack of creativity on the part of the nation's 240 million people.
Other countries by contrast seem to be much more creative. Here are some examples:
* Malaysia, Truly Asia
* Amazing Thailand
* Wow Philippines
* Dynamic Korea
* Incredible India
* Vietnam, the Hidden Charm
* Armenia, It Is Beautiful
Some local private-run TV stations are much more creative in inventing slogans. RCTI Okay must have been so successful that the station has continued to use this slogan for many years now. SCTV Ngetop is another successful one.
The Election Channel launched by Metro TV was a statement claiming it to be the main TV network of reference when it came to the 2009 elections. That works too.
Indonesia has a dynamic and creative advertising industry that would surely be able to come up with a much better slogan than "Celebrating".
One idea is to organize a national or even international competition for members of the public to come up with proposals for a tourism campaign slogan.
We could pick the top five winners and use a different slogan each year for the next five years.
A slogan for a tourism campaign is not something that should be entrusted entirely to the government, considering it has only been 10 years since we moved from an authoritarian regime when churning out slogans was part of the ruling tool.
In those days, slogans were designed more to "educate" people. They did not have to sell as much as to indoctrinate people.
Let us help those in charge of writing up the slogan for Visit Indonesia Year 2009.
Here are some suggestions:
* Indonesia High and Dry -- reflecting on the shortage of alcoholic drinks thanks to the red tape and a new 300 percent import tax.
* Intolerant Indonesia -- reflecting on the increasing intolerance that some members of society are now showing to others.
* Celebrating Diversity -- since we are in the mood of celebrating, we may as well celebrate our richness.
Or if VIY 2009 is a continuation of VIY 2008, and since we are too lazy to think of a new slogan, let's just settle with "Celebrating 101 years..."
Got any suggestions? Send in your entry by email to email@example.com or by SMS to +628111872772.
Happy New Year.