THE HEAD of Edinburgh’s marketing body has quit her job as a result of the fallout from the disastrous Incredinburgh Winter Festival campaign.
Lucy Bird will step down as chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh and give up her £100,000 salary at the end of this month. The board of the publicly owned organisation last night insisted they had reluctantly accepted her resignation, which had been her own decision.
But one insider involved in the campaign said the Incredinburgh drive had “gone UK-wide for all the wrong reasons” – and said it was clear her stepping down was linked to the heavily criticised campaign.
Relations had soured between Edinburgh City Council – which set up and funded the body with £2.2 million in its first year – during the row over the £300,000 campaign in October, which included slogans such as “romance isn’t dedinburgh”. The News understands that Ms Bird will receive no pay-off and leaves with only her wage slip for December.
Marketing Edinburgh was tasked with raising millions of pounds from private business to fund city-wide tourism drives when established in 2011 – but has largely failed and remains heavily reliant on public funding. Sources suggested this failure meant Ms Bird was already under pressure when the Incredinburgh campaign – masterminded by Irn-Bru ad executive Gerry Farrell – came under fire.
One source said: “The relationship between Marketing Edinburgh and Edinburgh City Council is said to have become an issue, because of the way the campaign was handled. This is an organisation which was set up with public money but they were contemptuous of procedure. They didn’t take on what people like Andrew Burns and Steve Cardownie said when the Incredinburgh slogans were first pitched.
“Lucy and the Leith Agency were sent away to come up with something else, and ended up pitching the same stuff again. They also sent out invitations to the launch – featuring the ‘romance isn’t dedinburgh’ slogan – before the council even agreed to it. That didn’t escape people’s attention.”
They added: “This campaign went UK-wide – for all the wrong reasons. The invitations had all the slogans on and they made up their mind – before it had been signed off. That didn’t escape peoples’ attention. The whole relationship was put under the microscope.”
Ms Bird took up the top post at Marketing Edinburgh in June 2011 with the task of rebranding the city, including replacing the established Inspiring Capital slogan. A former TV producer, she had been instrumental in getting the £70m Sage Gateshead music centre on the map before moving to Edinburgh and was said to have been widely respected for her work on the Newcastle venue.
Alan Johnston, chair of Marketing Edinburgh, said: “This decision has been entirely Lucy’s and while not desired, the board understands her rationale and she leaves with our gratitude and best wishes. Lucy has led our fledgling company through a difficult birth period and created a platform on which, given the right support, Edinburgh can take itself to the world.
“The board remain passionate about and committed to the idea that Marketing Edinburgh will continue to represent this fantastic city and fulfil the aspirations of both its public and private sector partners.”
The key challenge for the new chief executive, whose post is expected to be advertised in the New Year, will be determining what went wrong with the Incredinburgh campaign and how to pursue a new brand providing value for money.
Frank Ross, the city’s economy leader, said: “It’s essential the public and private sectors work together to promote Scotland’s capital. Marketing Edinburgh is an important partner in those efforts to ensure that the city remains a multi-award-winning destination. We wish Lucy Bird well for the future.”