Martin Hannan: Ad ‘genius’ has got no clothes

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You may have wondered what all the fuss was about when that big row broke over the “incredinburgh” winter marketing campaign. Well now we know because the main thrust of the campaign is on show to the public in the form of the first advert produced by the Leith Agency – an animated cartoon-type depiction of the city in winter.

Maybe somebody has to act like the small boy in the Emperor’s New Clothes story and tell the truth, and if it’s got to be me then so be it. The advert – you can see it on YouTube – is total and utter rubbish. It’s atrocious, dire, jaw-droppingly inept baloney, and about as appealing as root canal treatment. The advert and thus the whole campaign is absolutely dreadful and will not only not make people want to come to Edinburgh, it will actually put them off the city.

It would make Edinburgh a laughing stock, except that the trams have already done that. In all my 27 years working in this city I have never come across anything so amateurish and so completely out of touch with what people really find attractive about this wonderful city. While the winterinedinburgh.com website is so-so, the advert is a complete waste of time and money and someone in authority should have the decency and sense to pull the whole campaign before too many more people see it.

The whole farrago of nonsense stinks of smart-ass marketing and advertising people sitting in a Leith bistro quaffing third-rate Riesling and falling over each other, darling, to praise the “yoof” orientation of the agency’s new campaign. When we were kids we used to joke that the Scott Monument looked like Thunderbird 3 – the one that went into space. Sure enough, in this hopeless confection of infantile tosh masquerading as a tourism campaign, the Monument fires off like a space rocket. Aaaargh!

I really seriously have to question the judgement and indeed the 
sanity of the people at Marketing Edinburgh for approving and paying for this trivial garbage. Trainspotting’s “worst toilet in the world” did more for Edinburgh’s image than this load of hokum, and that’s where the advertising campaign should be sent – right down the nearest U-bend.

The creative “guru” behind the campaign, Gerry Farrell, has been suspended for tweeting a nasty wee insult about Councillor Steve Cardownie, my SNP colleague who originally aired the doubts about the campaign. Well, Steve was right and Farrell and co were wrong – “incredinburgh” is pure bilge. I’m sure old rhino hide Cardownie has already laughed off Farrell’s lame attempt at humour, but I seriously have to question the professionalism of any advertising “genius” who tweets about a senior member of the organisation that puts up much of the funding for his agency’s campaign.

Farrell and the Leith Agency should have the common decency to apologise to Cardownie and send back the money they were paid for “incredinburgh” because the campaign’s central plank is defective and shoddy. Make it dedinburgh, now.

The right stuff

JUST to prove that Edinburgh is getting some things right, it was a privilege to attend the Made in Scotland innovation event organised by Insider Magazine at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow last Thursday night.

Three Edinburgh men featured as speakers, and Dr David Milne of Wolfson Microelectronics, David Gow of Touch Bionics, and Pete Higgins of UWI Labels all did the Capital proud.

They all espoused the view that Scottish innovation is as good as ever, but we still have lots to learn about marketing, fundraising and patent protection, among other qualities that creative people need to learn.

Dr Milne is one of the great heroes of modern Scottish industry, and he revealed in his speech that even though the company floated on the stock market in 2003, Wolfson has never had to use the cash it raised. The firm has also supplied audio chips for both Microsoft and Apple – that is some achievement.

Gow, founder of the firm which became Touch Bionics, is the man who developed the world’s first robotic arm and hand, the I-Limb, which he originally named the Edinburgh Modular Arm System. In a witty speech, he wowed an audience of inventors with his tales of lessons learned about the business of innovation.

Having heard his inspirational tale, I will happily predict that Pete Higgins’ revolutionary labelling system will end the problem of food stored past its best. We will hear a great deal more about UWI Labels as more and more companies turn to this “Made in Edinburgh” firm for safe labelling, and already UWI has become the first company ever to attract the maximum funding from the Scottish Investment Bank.

Higgins described the five-year process of getting his product to market as “a rollercoaster” and that is what struck me about all three men – they all faced hurdles that would have put lesser people off, and all of them took the knocks and got back up again.

That’s the real spirit of Scotland, the true worth of Edinburgh. Our people have true grit, the kind of courage that says “I may be down, but I will rise up again”. Allied to genuine creativity, as opposed to the ersatz kind in certain advertising agencies, the sheer brains and guts of our people will always see us through.