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Edinburgh advertising campaign suffers political backlash

An Edinburgh marketing company tasked with improving the brand image of the capital has drawn the ire of local politicians, after deciding to proceed with a controversial advertising campaign theme.

Entitled ‘Winter in Edinburgh’, the campaign was aimed at improving the city’s image as a destination for visitors and tourists during the holiday season. It was formally unveiled last Tuesday by Marketing Edinburgh before an audience of local business owners and city councillors.

But the announced campaign included a slogan theme that had previously been broadly rejected by the City Council, which provides Marketing Edinburgh’s £1.2 million annual budget. 

The disputed slogans revolve around word play with the city name, with puns such “winter is ahedinburgh”, “shop here instedinburgh”, “paint the town redinburgh” and “romance isn’t dedinburgh”.

Also unveiled was a TV ad by an award-winning animation company featuring a “street rap” by a local band that makes liberal use of similar puns.  “Winter in Edinburgh, breakfast in bedinburgh, stick a battered hat on a snowman’s hedinburgh,” the singer jubilantly raps, as images play of cartoon lobsters shopping on George Street and the Scott monument morphing into a rocket.

The Council was not amused.

“We were not very pleased to see that these slogans were formally part of the presentation of the campaign,” Steve Cardownie, deputy leader of the City Council and chief critic of the campaign told The Student.  “We had insisted that they drop these tags, and they had agreed that they would.”

The wordplay campaign had first been proposed to Cardownie and other senior councillors in August, under the overarching title ‘Incredinburgh’.  At the time, the Council rejected the frivolous jargon and demanded the company return to the drawing board, or at the very least employ market research on the quirky approach.

“At that time, we were most concerned with the slogans.  We just didn’t think it would work.”  Cardownie explained to The Student.

Several weeks after the contentious initial meeting was adjourned, the reprimanded company asked for another meeting in front of the Council.  Expectant of a complete upheaval, the Council agreed to hear the proposals.

But the second round of proposals appeared to be nothing more than a reinvention of the first.  Exasperation ensued. Cardownie walked out.

“I decided I had better things to do in my office—there was no point staying listening to something I’d heard before, so I left,” he told The Student.

Now, in light of the company’s abject defiance of the Council’s objections in the announcement last week, the political backlash has reached a fever pitch.  Along with the vocal objections of Cardownie, sources inside the Council have opined that the fiasco spells disaster for the very future of the company, with one reportedly describing the campaign as “a very long suicide note” on the part of Marketing Edinburgh.

For its part, the company has defended the campaign and the actions it has taken.

“This campaign is a fun and imaginative way of promoting Edinburgh”, chief executive Lucy Bird maintained.  Bird has insisted that the campaign has the support of local hotel and business owners and has vowed to continue to market test the campaign.

Amid the political chaos, the Council’s next move is unclear.  While some insiders have raised the spectre of complete defunding, others, including Councillor Cardownie, have advocated for a more cautious approach for now.

“I think what we’re looking for now is a period of calm to let matters die down a wee bit, and then we’ll evaluate the situation,” he told The Student

That’s not to say repercussions are not forthcoming.

“Any objective commentator would expect there to be a full inquiry into how we got where we are,” he added.

The ad campaign is on course to be implemented starting next month.

Image: Patrick Down

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