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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tourism, Socialism and Insomnia Hell

Welcome from South Beach.

Not really sure how long this morning's column will end up being. I'm supposed to be asleep right now, since it's three in the morning and I'm in a hotel room in Miami, where I'm getting up to go on a supplier diversity conference tomorrow that will occupy my whole day. Insomnia's got me worried that the conference is going to be a nightmare, and so I figure if I'm awake, I might as well use this time in the wee small hours to report on the latest Media Guy Struggles and we'll see how much stuff I end up getting to.

Traveling is tough on the body…but good for the soul. You see things you wouldn’t normally see, taste food you wouldn’t normally order and meet people who are otherwise tucked into their office with their phones on perpetual “do not disturb.”

I rose to do a little workout and some yoga. After spending 18 of 27 days on the road trekking through Damascus, Rome, Washington D.C. and Miami you have to set your mood and get back on the workout trail. Butter-laden foods and heavy carbs could set you back pretty quickly. Everyone is fond of the slimmer, sleeker Media Guy so now it’s an obligation to keep going. 19 pounds to go.

Meanwhile work beckons and that means the usual suspects masquerading as experts. People always have trouble creating intelligent tourism campaigns and when there’s a committee, it is worse. So there I was kicking around tourism slogans for a country we just signed and everyone was lost in the whole socialistic “everyone gets a vote” method of copywriting. Of course my mind wandered about as if it were on a walk through the Outback of Australia on a mission to identify the worst tourism slogans.

I once visited Indonesia and saw a enormous billboard in bright lights on a rooftop: “VISIT JAKARTA”. The sign was in Jakarta, so everyone who saw it had either (a) already complied, or (b) already lived there. Well done, guys.

Another tourism faux pas was made by New Zealand. Their slogan? “100 Percent Pure New Zealand.” Couldn’t Satan use the same line?: “Hell. 100 Percent Pure Hell.”

Another hellish slogan was “Come to Bangladesh before the tourists.” That sounds like a warning, “When you get here you won’t find any other visitors and you’ll think. “Uh-oh. Why am I the only person here? What do they know that I don’t?”

Spain’s Andalucía has a slogan: “Andalucía. There’s only one.” This is short and sweet, but it what does it tell you? It could apply to virtually anywhere. Watch how it works:

“Tehachapi. There’s only one.”
“The Bronx Landfill. There’s only one.”
“My Warped Mind. There’s only one.”

Catch my drift?

Israel: Size doesn’t matter! Oh yes, watch this one. It's a classic.

In Hong Kong, the tourism board once used “Hong Kong will take your breath away.” That was great until scientists discovered that it was true. There was so much air-pollution that residents had to go to neighboring Macau each time they wanted to take a deep breath without choking.

My Indonesia: Just a Smile Away. If only a smile was all it took to travel overseas.

Back to reality, the team is in full gear. Some good ideas and some clunkers. We engage in real life within the tourism industry, after all, places are not places. They are “destinations.” When tourism becomes important enough in an area, public and private interests team up to form a destination marketing organization and hire an ad agency, like us. We’re responsible for the entire “branding” of the destination, and the slogan is just a part of the overall marketing campaign. But it’s the key cog in the machine.

Take the U.S. The longevity of a tourism slogan is short. As a matter of fact over a 21 year period, only six of the 50 State slogans remain in use.

So, back to the brainstorming. I urge the team not to be lazy, as in “Utah Lazy.” Their idea of a good slogan is adding an exclamation point. “Utah!” was the obvious choice here. Yes, a freaking exclamation point was the height of their creativity (!!). It must be working because they’ve stuck with it for 17 years.

In British Columbia they can’t make up their minds at all. Right before the last Olympics what used to be sweet and simple, “Beautiful BC” transformed into “BC: The Best Place on Earth” . Who says Canadians are humble? At least they left out the exclamation point.

“We should have some vision,” I explained. Unlike Panama’s famous slogan, “Panama. It will never leave you” which is reminiscent of childhood trauma and STDs. Speaking of which, how about Albania’s “A New Mediterranean Love”? Sounds a bit promiscuous, no?

In the middle of my mini Prof. Media Guy lecture a slogan flew into my head much in the same manner “Hey Soul Sister” by Train camps out in your mind all day like a Cuba squatter: “Colombia – the only risk is wanting to stay.” It took 45 minutes to get that out of my head.

And with that, I need to finish this egg-white omelet, cram in a workout and take a shower before heading out to conference and network the hell out of the day.

“Conference Networking. 100 Percent Pure Hell.” Hmmmm, not bad…