John Drinnan: What's wrong with City of Sails?

Why couldn't Ateed stick with an established slogan  like "City of Sails"? Photo / Richard Robinson.
Why couldn't Ateed stick with an established slogan like "City of Sails"? Photo / Richard Robinson.

Ateed, the Auckland Council's promotion arm, insists that "The Place Desired by Many" is the theme for a storyline to describe Auckland - not a slogan in its own right.

But the $517,000 marketing proposal appears to have come a cropper after it was reported in the Herald last weekend.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development says "The Place Desired by Many" is the English version of Tamaki Makaurau, Auckland's Maori name.

Reaction to last week's reports was predictably critical, and Ateed has said it was misrepresented in the coverage.

But as a free spending marketing and business development agency in a time of spending constraints, it appears vulnerable to attacks, and there are public relations challenges ahead.

Sails are out

Advertising people tell me branding exercises are valuable in developing a narrative or story that helps sell a city as a destination.

I asked Ateed why we could not stick with an established slogan like "City of Sails", and whether its planned storyline was aimed at people overseas, rather than Aucklanders.

"City of Sails" was launched by Tourism Auckland in 1985 as a tourism campaign focusing on marketing Auckland as a destination, said spokeswoman Anika Forsman. Auckland hadn't been actively marketed under that slogan since about 2008 because of that narrow destination focus, and it didn't reflect modern, multicultural Auckland, she said.

"If Auckland is to compete in the global marketplace to attract high-value visitors, talented migrants and innovators, major sporting and business events, international students, multinational businesses, it must have a unique global brand."

Too indulgent?

Ateed has faced PR issues before. One came when it hoped to develop a film studio at Hobsonville, using scarce land set aside for housing - a scheme which did not attract financial backing.

And there was much debate over its plan to back the Parker-Ruiz boxing match, though the agency minimised the public opprobrium when it withdrew its support.

Two sources say Ateed draws mixed reaction inside the council. Auckland Council chief executive Stephen Town is said to be a staunch Ateed ally, as was former mayor Len Brown.

However, new mayor Phil Goff has promised to restrain council spending, and dismissed the new narrative out of hand.

While marketing and advertising people see these branding projects as common sense, reactions last week suggest that many other people see such ventures as indulgences at a time when the council is looking at cutbacks to services.

As for the branding proposals, Ateed chief executive Brett O'Riley said: "The plan is to develop a strategic and economic business case that would quantify the economic benefits to the city.

"Unfortunately, it is likely to be considerably more difficult given the misinformation that is now in the public domain."

Staying local

Most consumers know the print media are going through upheavals.

However, community newspapers and "local-ness" are a shining light during tough times for the sector.

While national and international media battle Facebook, Google and a welter of other digital media, people working in community papers say they remain relatively buoyant.

Community Newspapers Association president Simon Ellis says local titles are providing a solid income for many - within the limitations of their small scale.

So it was somewhat surprising a month or so back when this column reported that a big player, Bauer Media, was starting a new free weekly newspaper for Auckland, called Paperboy.

The German owned company has brought a breath of fresh air to a sector that is vulnerable to disruption from changes in the way people use media, and with Paperboy's third edition yesterday, it appears to be finding advertisers.

Notably, Auckland Council - an important advertiser for many community papers - has provided substantial early advertising support.

In my opinion, wider distribution will make or break the title. As a city fringe resident, I was surprised to find we are not in the free delivery area, but still, these are early days.

Bauer chief executive Paul Dykzeul has been a persistent advocate for print, and says community focused titles have worked elsewhere and will work here too.

Elsewhere, at a corporate level, the main development in community papers has been Fairfax taking a 50 per cent stake in Neighbourly, a community-building website.

Jeremy Rees is national communities editor at Fairfax. He says many local titles benefit from being sustained by a sense of community that is particularly apparent among older people.

The shift to digital - such as Fairfax's investment in Neighbourly - will have an impact in the medium term, says Rees.

The company needs to consider the impact of people carrying mobile phones in their pockets, he says. Mobiles could be used to reach consumers when they are close to advertisers' outlets. Making that connection could have a lot of value for community media companies in the future.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan writes the media website

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John Drinnan has been a business journalist for twenty years, he has been editor of the specialist film and television title "Screen Finance" in London, focussing on the European TV and film industry. He has been writing about media in New Zealand since the deregulation of the television industry in the late 1980s.

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