John Donnelly named new Marketing Edinburgh chief

Marketing Edinburgh's new chief executive John Donnelly is unveiled. Picture: Greg Macvean
Marketing Edinburgh's new chief executive John Donnelly is unveiled. Picture: Greg Macvean
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EDINBURGH is set to ditch its controversial “Incredinburgh” brand just nine months after launching it following the appointment of a new figurehead for its marketing body.

John Donnelly, a former senior executive with Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games, has put in charge of Marketing Edinburgh, which launched the first phase of the £300,000 marketing drive last year.

But Mr Donnelly, who helped launch the T in the Park music festival, said the campaign - which was originally expected to be rolled out in phases - would “probably not” see the light of the day again.

Around £300,000 was said to have been spent developing a new image for the city, complete with a host of catchphrases last year, only for its launch to be hijacked by behind-the-scenes wrangling with the city council, the major funder of Marketing Edinburgh.

Mr Donnelly, 49, replaces Lucy Bird, who quit her £100,000 post last December after just 18 months in the post over the criticism levelled at the organisation.

It is meant to be run independently of the council, which currently gives it a grant of more than £1 million, but leaked emails showed Ms Bird was furious at the meddling, saying: “As an arms-length company we did not expect or anticipate the need to seek approval for our work.”

Mr Donnelly left his reputed £120,000 post as commercial director at Glasgow 2014 last May. At the time sources at the games described his departure as a shock and games organisers would only say that Mr Donnelly had left after three and a half years “by agreement.”

However he told The Scotsman it had been “absolutely” his own decision to leave, to set up his own consultancy, after a mutual decision that his time there had probably “ran its course” after key strategies he was responsible for were drawn up and put in place.

Mr Donnelly, who lives in the Stockbridge area of the city, described the £300,000 campaign, which was branded “absolutely appalling” by former council leader Jenny Dawe, as “bold”. But he also insisted it had been conceived for “a moment in time”.

It is understood Mr Donnelly, who has been offered a one-year contract in the post, will be paid “slightly less” than Ms Bird because of Marketing Edinburgh’s financial situation.

He told The Scotsman: “My contract was due to run until the end of 2014, but it was my decision to leave at the time I did. I was brought in three and a half years earlier to draw up a number of major strategies.

“I sat down with the chairman and chief executive and we agreed that with the skill-sets I had that my time had probably ran its course.

“If you look at the London Olympics a lot of their senior officials left well before the event happened. The strategies I drew up are still in place.”

Mr Donnelly said the job of running Marketing Edinburgh had appealed because he felt the city had never ran a proper campaign before now.

But he was careful not to criticise the “Incredinburgh” campaign - despite suggesting it will be consigned to the history books.

He added: “Everyone has an opinion when it comes to creative work.

“Of course, there were learnings that Marketing Edinburgh had to take on board but we must not be afraid to give Edinburgh the promotion it deserves.

“But we must not be afraid to give Edinburgh the promotion it deserves; marketing that’s imaginative, clever and, above all else, innovative.

“I wasn’t involved with the Incredinburgh campaign and all I saw of it was the TV advert. But it was very much a winter campaign conceived for a moment in time. Will it see the light of day again? Probably not.

Mr Donnelly said Marketing Edinburgh would be behaving like and speaking the language of a private sector body and that a key part of his remit would be too raise more finance from the sector.

Mr Donnelly added: “My role is to make sure that Marketing Edinburgh is the hungry, knowledgeable and commercially focused organisation it needs to be.

“I’ve worked with major brands including Coca Cola, Peugeot, and Unilever, not to mention launching the sponsorship, merchandising and ticket-sale strategies for Glasgow 2014.

“From that experience, I know how important it is to deliver tangible, financial benefit through marketing – and that’s the main message that I’ll bring to the way that Marketing Edinburgh cultivates relationships.”

Gordon Robertson, head of Marketing Edinburgh’s interim management group, which led the recruitment process, said: “John has a proven track record of turning strategy into demonstrable action and his experience, energy and passion for Edinburgh is very impressive. We are delighted to have him on board.”


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