Marketing group’s ‘Incredinburgh’ campaign is ‘suicidal’ says council insider

EDINBURGH’S marketing body is today fighting for its life after it again defied city leaders over a “suicidal” campaign to promote the Capital, the News can reveal.

Marketing Edinburgh, an arms-length council company, dropped the “Incredinburgh” tag originally proposed for rebranding the city, but decided to press ahead with a range of other slogans based on wordplay. These were revealed at a launch in the city on Tuesday night.

Now the straplines – such as “paint the town redinburgh” and “shop here instedinburgh” – have provoked fresh outrage among council chiefs. One senior source at the city council said it was hard to see how Marketing Edinburgh could now survive the row.

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“An organisation cannot behave in this way, ignoring its chief funder,” the source said. “They have just ignored the politicians who told them to go away and think again. It’s almost like this whole campaign has been one very long suicide note.”

Council chiefs said they had insisted the slogans should be market-tested before they could be used – but when the winter advertising campaign was unveiled on Tuesday night, several of the puns featured prominently in the literature and TV ad. Lord Provost Donald Wilson and council leader Andrew Burns both spoke at the launch – which was attended by around 300 people – but it is understood no-one at the council had seen the material in advance. Councillor Burns was notably cautious in his comments, saying there would be a “pause for reflection” early next year to assess the campaign.

Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie, who did not attend the event, said later he was “disappointed” that Marketing Edinburgh had chosen to go ahead with the slogans.

A new advertising brand for the Capital, to replace the 2005 “Inspiring Capital” slogan, was one of the key tasks for Marketing Edinburgh when it was set up 18 months ago.

The award-winning Leith Agency was given the job of coming up with a new theme.

But when senior councillors and officials were first shown the “Incredinburgh” concept in the summer, they were not impressed and asked for a rethink.

However, a second presentation a few weeks later turned out to be a reheating of the same idea, prompting Councillor Cardownie to walk out. After the row became public, Marketing Edinburgh agreed to ditch “Incredinburgh” – which it claimed was only ever intended as a Twitter hashtag. It insisted the overall concept had gone down well with the tourism industry.

But the council source today said: “It was agreed ‘winterinedinburgh’ was to be the slogan. Nothing else of the original Incredinburgh concept was to be used without market-testing,

“There was a reasonable assumption they would do what they were told, but they have just ignored the politicians. They ignored them the first time after the first presentation, and now they have ignored them again in a very public way.They have attempted to humiliate these politicians who asked them to think again. There’s only one end result to that.”

Marketing of the city could now be taken in-house, probably saving cash, said the source, who added: “There are plenty experts out there who know Edinburgh well who could be pressed into service.”

Marketing Edinburgh chief executive Lucy Bird said the campaign had been well received by hoteliers, retailers, the airport and others who were consulted. She said: “The need for a fresh campaign concept to promote our city was approved by the board of Marketing Edinburgh and is a key component of our agreed business plan.

“Detailed proposed concepts were shown to a stakeholder group made up of senior representatives of those who fund, partner in and support Marketing Edinburgh Ltd, and following the recommendation of this group, a preferred option was selected by the company, which was subsequently endorsed by the board of directors. This concept will be further market-tested in the next few weeks, and Marketing Edinburgh will continue to modify the detail of the campaign as necessary, as a matter of good practice.”

A council spokesman said: “We look forward to assessing the success of the campaign.”

Marketing boss earns £100k

MARKETING Edinburgh employs around 30 staff and is based in Glenfinlas Street, off Charlotte Square.

Chief executive Lucy Bird, a former TV producer, corporate entertainment organiser and theatre administrator, is paid around £100,000 a year. Before she got the job, she promoted the £70 million Sage Gateshead centre.

The organisation was meant to have a budget of around £3m a year, but a lack of contributions from businesses has left it short so far.

Funded to the tune of £1.2m a year by the city council, it says it also has plans to raise £850,000 this year from the private sector.

Marketing Edinburgh has 170 members, ranging from Edinburgh University to the airport and including retailers, hoteliers and groups such as Edinburgh World Heritage.

The board is chaired by Alan Johnston, who previously held the same position at the Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance. It includes council chief executive Sue Bruce and, until recently, SNP councillor Tom Buchanan, who has stepped down because of ill health to be replaced by fellow Nationalist Frank Ross.


November 2010: Go-ahead for creation of new marketing body, Marketing Edinburgh, by merging the Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance (DEMA), the Edinburgh Convention Bureau and Edinburgh Film Focus.

June 2011: Lucy Bird appointed as chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Edinburgh City Council. A key task for the new body is rebranding the Capital.

August 2012: Marketing Edinburgh and the Leith Agency give a presentation to senior councillors and officials on the new “Incredinburgh” campaign, but the wordplay slogans do not go down well and councillors ask for a rethink.

September 2012: A second presentation turns out to be the same concept reheated. Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie walks out.

October 14, 2012: News of the Incredinburgh slogan emerges, sparking a frenzy of new suggestions, including “off your hedinburgh”. Marketing Edinburgh agrees to drop Incredinburgh.

October 23, 2012: Launch of new winter campaign, featuring several of the controversial straplines, despite council demands for market-testing first.