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Can Government Be Cool?

This example comes from a local government, but I think it has relevance for government at all levels. The District of Columbia Police Department has started a new tipline that allows people to text anonymous crime tips to the number 50411. The slogan for the tipline is "Give 5-0 the 411," with 5-0 being slang for the police, or a warning that the police are nearby (derived, of course from Hawaii Five-O), and 411 being slang for information. I can't decide if I think it's smart or lame. On one hand, the use of 5-0 acknowledges slang used by people who want to avoid the police, kind of co-opting the term. But does the slogan look like the police department is just trying way too hard to reach a group of people who maybe don't trust the cops?

I'm fine with government agencies trying to look relevant and hip if they're doing it right. But if they're not, if they're going to use outdated cultural references, or totally miss on an allusion, I sort of think it's better for government to accept it's squareness and just try to communicate efficiently and effectively.

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