Confident. Bold. Ready. These are the messages that the Brand Canberra project aspires to showcase to the rest of Australia and the world. And at a cost of $2.6 million to the ACT taxpayer, let’s hope that it eventually pays off.
The project is a wide-ranging and multifaceted marketing initiative. According to the ACT Government, Brand Canberra will be an enduring hallmark whose genesis was the civic pride and cultural maturation on display during the centenary year of 2013.
Throughout 2013, communications agency Coordinate and public relations firm Content Group began work on a product that attempted to shift the clichéd perceptions of Canberra as the characterless capital to an exciting metropolis for investors, visitors, and new residents.
Originally released in November 2013, the two-minute video was not only criticised by the public, but also attracted negative appraisals from marketing experts such as Jane Caro and Ken Cato. The consensus appeared to be that video production is a long and naff montage of romanticised images that are as emblematic of Australia’s capital city as a platter of meats and cheese is to a lacto-vegetarian.
Founder and director of Coordinate Jamie Wilson played down the harsh analysis of the project, telling RiotACT that he considered the public conjecture as a natural step in what will eventually be seen as a feat of ingenuity that will pay dividends to Canberra well into the future.
However, accompanying the recent launch of the new Canberra website was a new three-minute promotional video. In my personal opinion, the only good part of the video is that it features so many beautiful Canberrans.
Wilson denied that Coordinate had the promotional video re-created to coincide with the website launch, but it is difficult to come to any other conclusion. It is unclear how much each video cost the ACT Government.
When questioned whether he was completely satisfied that the stakeholders were delivering on the government’s vision, Chief Minister Andrew Barr reasoned that it is rare that everyone in a community will be “completely satisfied” with any promotional campaign.
“These things are, by their very nature, subjective. What might appeal strongly to you or me, others might not like at all,” he said.
Barr dismissed concerns over the $2.6 million price tag.
“The cost is modest and spread over a number of years so ensures budget affordability. I am also pleased that the investment is staying local rather than adding to the profits of large national or multi-national corporations, which would be the case if we simply bought more ads with NewsLimited for example,” he said.
He also said that the current campaign is much more strongly supported than the ‘Feel the power’ campaign from the Canberra Liberals in the late 1990s.
Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Hanson declined RiotACT’s request for comment.
It is simply a cold fact that when it comes the nation’s capital territory, the Federal Government’s agenda is to divest rather than invest. It is therefore a rational budgetary imperative that the ACT Government should promote initiatives that are aimed at attracting investment to the nation’s capital. And a dynamic, modern, and multifaceted representation of what Canberra is, and has to offer, is surely a vital part of such an endeavour.
The questions are whether or not this particular endeavour is worth $2.6 million, and whether it is an endeavour of substance or hollowness. And to whom are we peacocking? It would seem just ourselves so far.
I’ve seen no promotion of the ACT outside of the ACT. I’ve seen Adelaide, Sydney and Queensland promote themselves in other states and abroad. Where the bloody hell are we?
And then there is a more philosophical point to make:
I certainly don’t identify with Brand Canberra, and like many Canberrans, I detest all forms of advertising – especially when it is me who is supposedly being advertised.
I can’t help feeling that the idea of selling an identity is to acknowledge that you may not have one. You don’t tell people who you are; you show people who you are. I fear that the very idea that we need to sell an image is to promote a notion that we have no substance – and we do have substance.
The great cities of the world are not great because they have sold themselves; they are great because they are themselves.
Perhaps we don’t need to sell ourselves; perhaps we just need to be ourselves.
This is an amended version of an article published on 3 February 2015 titled “CBR: #notconvinced”. The article contained an unattributed quote from an anonymous Liberal MLA that described the relationship between Coordinate and the Territory Government. The RiotACT unreservedly apologises to Coordinate and the Territory Government for any offence and embarrassment it caused through publication of that quote.