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The "P" Lives On

Oh, it's not over. Weeks after talk radio finished beating on Mayor David Cicilline for the "P" - you know, the little orange letter meant to rebrand Providence as the "Creative Capital" - our favorite little controversy resurfaced yesterday with a front-page piece in the Wall Street Journal on the local tempest and the broader debate over branding places.

Buddy, who led the charge on the issue, gets prominent play in the story.

"They had to go to Nashville to let them tell us that we are creative," complains Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, the former Providence mayor and radio-show host. He calls the new campaign a waste of money. Mr. Cianci says he didn't pay anyone a penny for the "Renaissance City" tag he gave Providence before he had to go to federal prison for 4½ years on a racketeering conspiracy charge.

With that, the WSJ laid out all the central arguments that animated Rhode Island's spat. But none of the media coverage - local or national - got at the most interesting part of the debate.

The fight over the "P" was, at its core, a fight between the new Providence and the old Providence, between artistic types and blue-collar folks, between those who see the value in a $100,000 marketing campaign and those who find it a ridiculous waste of cash. This was a fight for the soul of a city. OK, maybe that's going a little too far. But you get the point.

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