Re-Branding the City of Atlanta

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin has been heading an effort to "re-brand" her city, and she and a group of marketers have come up with a new slogan: "Every Day is an Opening Day." Plus, they commissioned a song, "The ATL," composed by R&B producer Dallas Austin. The song drew some criticism from people who questioned the use of an R&B song to represent all the citizens of Atlanta. Michele Norris talks to Franklin about the branding campaign and the new song.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The city of Atlanta is being branded. It's selling itself with a new slogan and a theme song. Once known as the city `Too Busy to Hate,' Atlanta is now portraying itself as the place where, quote, "Every day is an opening day." The city commissioned R&B producer Dallas Austin to write the song for the marketing campaign; it's called "The ATL."

(Soundbite of "The ATL")

Group of People: (Singing) A-T-L. A-T-L.

Unidentified Man: Ladies and gentleman, you are now tuned into ATL's finest.

NORRIS: The song's style has drawn complaints from some area residents. In today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one letter to the editor calls it `plum awful.' The writer says, `I can't understand a word.'

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin says the song is intended to appeal to young people, the future of the city.

Mayor SHIRLEY FRANKLIN (Atlanta): Great cities are built for the future, and any mayor around the world will tell you that. I mean, all of us go to work, not just to fill the potholes on any given day, but rather to be a part of a planning process that prepares this city for success 20 and 30 years later. So you must reach out to young people to be a successful city. Now the question then becomes--I mean, do you have the nerve to say that? And in Atlanta, we do.

NORRIS: So Atlanta has a new song composed by an R&B producer named for another city, Dallas--his name is Dallas Austin--and the song's called "ATL." Let's take a listen.

(Soundbite of "The ATL")

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Whoo! They say Atlanta is where you go to become your dreams.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) In a world that has room for opportunity. Oh!

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Hey, hey, hey!

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Lord, I love my A...

Group of People: (Singing) A-T-L.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) I love A-T-L...

Group of People: (Singing) A-T-L.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) ...more than any other place I've been around the world.

NORRIS: I imagine you bursting through a rack of balloons running onto a basketball court somewhere when I hear this song.

Mayor FRANKLIN: Well, you've got the right image. But we're thrilled. Dallas has done a tremendous job for us.

NORRIS: Mayor Franklin, the campaign is costing the city about $8 million. Have you taken any guff about that?

Mayor FRANKLIN: Well, not really, because this is a campaign to encourage jobs, to encourage business. Cities all over the country and all over the world market themselves, so we recognize that we have to pay for some of them for the advertising. But our local media has donated a lot as well.

NORRIS: There are certain kinds of music that are associated with a specific region or a specific city; bluegrass, for example. Atlanta is now home to a major hip-hop scene. Will this sort of cement that image for the city, and was there any debate about that, whether the city should so openly embrace the hip-hop sound?

Mayor FRANKLIN: Well, the city of Atlanta has embraced the hip-hop sound. People love this music. This music is not just purchased or played by teen-agers or young people; it's played by people of all ages across the world.

NORRIS: Now, Mayor, you said everybody loves this music. Actually, not everybody loves it. There have been some detractors. Former Congressman Bob Barr wrote in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the song, quote, "smacks of nothing save nearly unintelligible moaning about ATL and get them up," as he said. Now what do you say to a comment like that?

Mayor FRANKLIN: Well, you know, I read that article, and I agreed with 95 percent of what Bob Barr said. The only thing I disagree with Bob Barr on, on this point, is that he actually concludes that we don't need to do any marketing, and I think he's dead wrong about that. And I believe that the song needs to reflect the future of the city, and it needs to reflect the diversity of our city. It's a lot easier to use the words. We want to represent everyone and, in fact, find a place for everyone to participate.

NORRIS: Mayor Franklin, thanks so much for talking to us.

Mayor FRANKLIN: Thank you.

NORRIS: Mayor Shirley Franklin of Atlanta, talking about the city's new song, "The ATL."

And just in case hip-hop's not quite your jam, there are also blues and symphonic versions of the song.

(Soundbite of symphonic version of "The ATL")

ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on NPR News.

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