When Television Campaigns Go Wrong
You’re the Mayor of a seaside town looking to improve its Summer tourism trade. Having promised the locals this is a priority you dip into the tax-payers’ money to produce a misjudged television commercial from your own imagination, ignoring all sensible advice and even pleas from colleagues not to go through with it.
A television campaign intended to draw holidaymakers to Torbay has been branded ‘a waste of money’. After making an election pledge to invest £250,000 in marketing for the resort, Torbay’s mayor Gordon Oliver worked with the council’s communications team in the creation of a thirty-second commercial based on an unimaginative and hackneyed ‘seaside postcards’ theme. The commercial is understood to have cost in the region of £16,000 to produce. Ignoring all advertising and media-buying wisdom the commercial was aired during September on the Sky News channel. In my opinion, regardless of the merits or otherwise of the commercial itself, those were two choices that doomed the campaign to failure from the outset.
Directors of the English Riviera Tourism Company, who weren’t involved in the decision to go ahead with the advert, have naturally criticised the initiative. The company had given advice to the council about the proposed advert but Chief Executive Carolyn Custerson says it was ignored, “The Mayor’s personal agenda overrode all logic. With the budget cuts we have had to cope with I hated to see money like this wasted. But he wouldn’t listen.” She wisely points out two major considerations that anyone sensible would consider quite obvious – September is not the right month to advertise a seaside resort and Sky News is not generally watched by families or women – who mostly make the decisions on holiday destinations.
The total response from the hapless campaign was ten phone calls and three brochure requests, with one inquirer even calling to ask for an audition for The X Factor. Fellow Director of the English Riviera Tourism Company Tony Smythe said, “It was ill-timed and needed to be properly planned. You’ve got to know how effective any advertising campaign is going to be so you are not just throwing money away. We need to ensure we get proper responses.” Custerson added, “The company does want to do advertising on television, but we only want to do it when we believe it is correct, and properly placed. I hope this hiccup will not put the Mayor off television advertising. If we get the channels and timing right we will get a good response. TV advertising is in our tourism strategy. We will be proposing a new campaign for next year.”
Comments posted on the original article on the Paignton People website were understandably not only critical of Torbay’s Mayor but of the advertising companies involved with one reply stating, “He should be spending our money on improving Torbay rather than paying snake-oil salesmen to produce mistimed, misplaced adverts. Public sector organisations have been seduced by the weasel words of advertising and public relations agencies, all because of the desperate need of local (and national) politicians to be seen to be doing something.” Sadly, I have to agree in part with this comment – despite the Mayor being by all accounts a ‘difficult client’, those involved with its production still gladly took the money without thought of the long-term repeat benefits of producing a successful campaign. I’m guessing they won’t be in the running to pitch for next year’s effort.
In an almost parallel story we were commissioned by Great Yarmouth Borough Council to create a television campaign promoting Great Yarmouth to day-trippers outside of the region. However… representatives of all Yarmouth’s attractions worked in consultation with the Council’s tourism department and ourselves to develop a commercial concept that would show the town at its best. Crucially, the commercial was shot in late Summer, with post-production during the Autumn, and then shelved until it was needed for broadcast the following Spring. With annual updating and refreshing, and the addition of a brand new commercial produced this Summer (you can view it here) the campaign has now run very successfully for three consecutive seasons. During airing of the campaigns Great Yarmouth Borough Council notes both markedly raised car park attendances and increased hits to Great Yarmouth’s website.