A rose by any other name, industrial northeast division.

I’m a sucker for a great teaser campaign. A print ad or a tv spot that sends you to a web site for the full story or at least another chapter. So, I was really interested this week driving up the New Jersey Turnpike to a trade show at the Javits Center to spot a billboard featuring the mystery message: Jersey Doesn’t Stink. The board was near Newark and chemical plant territory where there’s always a fragrant “polymer du jour,” which only intrigued me more.

Jersey Doesn't Stink

Jersey Doesn't Stink

A visit to Jersey Doesn’t Stink.com raised a few more questions than it answered. My first thought was that if someone is investing in billboards on the turnpike, they are on a mission. My first thought was a state agency. Tourism? Economic Development? A Trenton-based air freshener manufacturer? If you go to the fine print, an entity called Jersey Doesn’t Stink, LLC is behind the site. If you go on Google, you won’t find them. Hmmmmm. There is a page of sponsors, but there are only six, all of them small businesses or groups. The mystery deepens. Billboards cost a lot of money, so whose civic pride is bankrolling this effort?

The home page features the rallying cry: “We’re sick of the clichés. Are you sick of defending your home state against wisecracks?” There’s a humorous video clip, a petition, opportunities to share the site. Ultimately, the site is meant to be self-sustaining. There’s an online store selling shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs, etc. But since the counter indicates only 633 people have signed the petition, these folks may need a major broadcast buy to jumpstart e-commerce.

What constitutes armpit of the nation status? Joe Piscopo’s famous SNL routine. A renewal of MTV’s Jersey Shore, plus at least three other Jersey reality shows? The seamy side of the Sopranos? What counteracts the negative and the self-deprecation? Sinatra? Springsteen? Princeton? Victorian Cape May? Jersey tomatoes?

I have too many fond memories and frequent Garden State visits to ever dislike my Eastern neighbor. Which is why this effort unfortunately reminds me of the famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation, “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

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