Nobody likes to be criticized, but everyone is drawn to conflict. That’s what sells newspapers and it’s why a lot of blogs are so popular. I’m not above being critical to get some attention right here. It certainly attracts notice, and when you’re keeping score based on measurements like site visits, insulting others is as good a weapon as having Brian Brohm at quarterback. It’s the whole “any news is good news, just make sure you spell my name right” philosophy.
That seems to be the strategy of the Louisville Branding Campaign. First, there were TV ads critical of other cities. That attracted some notice, much of it negative. The TV ads are finished running on air, available now only online. Now it’s on to radio, where three cheery, happy spots nail our city’s quirky nature and nuance.
But Hal Heiner, for one, is not ready to let go. The East End Councilman flat out didn’t like the TV spots and the way they poked fun at other cities, places that business people in Louisville might like to visit and conduct business in.
“I’d hate to see the results of a $2 million campaign be negative for Louisville,” Heiner told me Monday. “It’s time for discussion on whether it achieves our goal. We need to decide as a Metro Council on whether to fund the campaign.”
So Heiner asked fellow councilman David Tandy to bring the perpetrators before the next meeting of the Labor and Economic Development Committee, scheduled Oct. 4, a week from Thursday. He says they got some ‘splainin’ to do.
“I’m anxious to hear what they have to say,” Heiner said. “People I’ve talked to about it felt it was a very negative campaign and doubt it would attract anyone here. It might raise contempt for us. I’ve yet to run into anyone who likes it.”
In an unofficial Business First poll, 38 percent found the campaign “creative and edgy.” But 37 percent called it “embarrassing” and another 11 percent responded “I just don’t get it.”
Bill Lamb, WDRB-TV’s general manager, said he saw the spots before they aired and gave the folks behind the spots “high marks for trying,” and said, “I’m proud of them for trying something different and eye-catching.” He said Louisville’s business community is too conservative, so he likes what they’re trying to do.
The fact is that the campaign has already succeeded. Joe Reagan, Greater Lousiville Inc.’s CEO , sent an e-mail to GLI’s top investors last Friday, saying that some ads were “admittedly provocative tongue-in-cheek humor” but that they were designed to get people talking. He told the people putting up much of the $1 million initial campaign costs that the 3,800 hits on the new Web site and the 4,600 views on YouTube-like sites were good news. He even mentioned the chatter about the campaign in the blogsphere.
If you can get past the TV spots, and I’m told that the spots have gotten many positive reviews from younger audiences. The radio spots are really good, and they don’t poke fun at anyone’s else’s desolation. The Mayor has been using the “Possibility City” phrase in speeches, and like it or not, if you live here you better get used to hearing it. Like the state’s Unbridled Spirit campaign, if you keep throwing promotional dollars into an idea, it will eventually catch on.