Friday, Oct. 17, 2003 | 11:16 a.m.
ATLANTIC CITY -- Apparently, "Slots 'R' Us" wasn't broad enough.
"Come, Spend Your Grandchildren's Inheritance"? Too long.
"America's Favorite Playground"? Tried it already.
"Always Turned On"? Hmmm. It's a little suggestive, a little electric. What better way to sell a casino capital that never goes to sleep?
The city that gave birth to Miss America, invented saltwater taffy and mastered the art of the cheap buffet has a new slogan: "Atlantic City -- Always Turned On."
The catch phrase and an accompanying logo, unveiled Thursday, will be used by the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority in sales pitches, on literature and in appeals to convention and meeting planners.
Unable to afford TV and radio advertising buys, the authority -- which spent $110,000 developing the slogan -- hopes to get the word out via a public relations campaign, the authority's website and new signage along the Atlantic City Expressway.
Early reviews were favorable.
"It suits Atlantic City," said gambler Shirley Valdes, 33, of New York. "It's always lit up, 24 hours a day, just like some of the people you see here."
Author and historian Vicki Gold Levi called it ideal for Atlantic City, which had a name for gambling, bootlegging and colorful nightlife long before casinos rolled in 25 years ago.
"Atlantic City's always been a little naughty, a place to lose your inhibitions. And 'Always Turned On' fits right in with it. It's what we are now, a fun, grown-up town."
That's what civic leaders wanted to get at in crafting a replacement for "America's Favorite Playground," the authority's slogan since 1995.
They wanted something adult that wouldn't offend families, something catchy enough to lure younger people without using "playground," which subtly suggested a place rife with recreational activities for young families.
Historically, most of Atlantic City's 33.4 million annual visits are by people in their 60s or older, many of them casino day trippers, although the edgy new Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and other attractions are wooing a younger clientele.
Using focus groups made up of 670 people from Boston, New York and Cincinnati who had either visited within the last five years or not been in the last decade, researchers and copywriters working for the authority came up with a list of 150 possible slogans, then narrowed it to 12, then to four.
Among the other suggestions: "Come Out and Play" and "The Exciting Place to Relax."
But "Always Turned On" consistently tested the best among potential visitors, according to Jeffrey Vasser, executive director of the Convention & Visitors Authority.
He said he wasn't worried about any drug-related or sexual connotations the words "turned on" might suggest.
"Any good marketing theme will be open to interpretation," Vasser said.
Casinos like it.
"It fits the city," said Pam Popielarski, president of the Tropicana Casino and Resort. "That it has different meanings to different people is a good thing. You want to think out of the box."
The announcement eased fears among some Atlantic City-area attractions that the slogan would be something so adult that it would be bad business.
"We had heard things like 'Atlantic City, For Adults Only,' so we were very concerned," said Chuck Betson, marketing director for the minor league Atlantic City Surf baseball team. "This, we can live with. We can certainly fit under this umbrella. The country's turned on by baseball and it certainly has been for the last two weeks."
To Atlantic City, Leila Smith, 46, it's downright funny. When told of the slogan, she giggled and giggled.
"Oh, it's hot. It's definitely hot. You can go anywhere with that, that's what's nice about it."