Monday, April 27, 2009

Winnipeg Free Press Dodge Winnipeg's New Media Businesses

Only 3 weeks into the "We Believe in Winnipeg" campaign featured in the Sunday edition of the Winnipeg Free Press, and already its proven to be a farce. Originally the piece was a separate insert, focused on Winnipeg business success stories, with each week featuring a different industry sector. This week it was supposed to feature Winnipeg businesses involved in Internet Communications Technology/New Media and Education. Instead, there was no insert this time, only a 2-page spread, and all that was in there were articles around Red River College. Okay... that covers education but what about the other areas?

Hmm? What a coincidence that the Winnipeg Free Press - who are hurting financially because of losses in ad revenue to Internet Communications Technology & New Media companies - chose against featuring any of these companies in the article.

It seems pretty clear that the private interests of the paper outweigh the purpose of the whole campaign. New Media companies are popping up all over Winnipeg, so you think there'd be plenty to write about. It's so pathetic that I'm surprised the Free Press didn't decide to just promote their cars, homes, and auction e-commerce sites in the new media section to try and further fill their pockets. Lame.

I guess you can file this campaign in the same G-drawer as "Love Me, Love My Winnipeg" in the 1980s; "100 Reasons to Love Winnipeg" in the 1990s and; "Spirited Energy" in 2006.

Can't wait to see what's next. Maybe the Free Press could give all their subscribers a gold star to pin on their chest to remind them of how proud they should feel to be in a city that provides such bias reporting.

I believe in Winnipeg, just not in the Free Press.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Winnipeg Should Just Sell the Simple Life

I've been to so many meetings recently with all the entities responsible for "Selling Winnipeg to the World," and the only thing I've learned is that no one has any idea what to promote or who we truly are as a city.

What is the unique selling point of Winnipeg? Is it cheap Hydro? The amount of sunshine? The upcoming Canadian Museum for Human Rights? Or maybe its our steady economy or our growth potential being the center of North America? Ask yourself this, would you move your entire family and business to a new city for a museum or for cheap hydro? The answer to all these questions is no.

We are in a very unique time as Winnipeggers in that the opportunity to be a leader as a city on a national level has never been so readily available since the early 1900's. At that time, it was our location and natural resources that gave us the title as one of the fastest growing cities on the continent. We all know what's happened since then, but because those same reasons for our rapid growth exist today, I think there is a fundamental question that we are failing to ask. Do we want to be the next Toronto or Vancouver? I think the answer again is no.

Majority of the campaigns that have ran recently - such as Spirited Energy, or more recently, "We Believe in Winnipeg"- touch on the idea of the ease of life in Winnipeg, but none seem to feel this is enough to make people want to relocate their home or business here. I think it is.

People that crave the pace of life or ego stroke that comes with living in Toronto or New York have no interest in Winnipeg. They would find us way too boring. And if you ask a Winnipegger, they don't want them. It is the simple life that makes Winnipeg appealing.

Yes these campaigns make mention of the friendly people and the fact that you are an hour away from being on a lake at the cabin; but they all seem to then mask this by sending a message that puts us in competition with Vancouver or Calgary. We can't compete with them because, at our core, Winnipeggers don't carry the same values. If we did, we'd live there.

Why not run a global campaign called "Winnipeg - the simple life" and really focus on this as a benefit. That you can relocate your family and start the small business you've always dreamed of and have a fighting chance of success in our market. That we choose rather to work to live than live to work. Sure there are some workaholics in Winnipeg, but ask most people and all they want to do is get through the day to enjoy a drink on a patio on Corydon or a round of golf with their buddies.

By focusing our marketing plan as a city on what we will eventually be once CentrePort Canada is built and once we figure out rapid transit, people outside of the city who receive this probably think "Hmm... maybe I'll move to Winnipeg once all this is done?" Instead we should be looking to attract the people who are thinking "Man I hate waiting in traffic for 2 hours everyday, never seeing my family, burnt out. Winnipeg sounds like a great place to relocate to start enjoying my life again."

What this also does is help the younger generations realize how good they have it. Instead of our media focusing on the negatives of living in Winnipeg, and staring wide eyed at the Vancouver's of Canada like a horny teenager, let's laugh at how these other cities are so lost in their egos that they need to work 20 hours a day just to feel important enough to sit in their new Mercedes for 3 hours in rush hour traffic; all the while I've already gone to the gym, had a long walk with my wife and watched the latest movie I've been dying to see. Youth want entertainment, not work. The only reason larger cities seem appealing is because you make more money which provides more entertainment. Help them realize they can do it all right here, with less work and enough pay to live a happy life.

Ask most Winnipeggers who've travelled or lived in big city centres and you tend to get the same answer, "great place to visit, but I'd never live there." And for those reading this that have never left Winnipeg, my guess is you're all the biggest whiners. Take a trip, so when you come home you can once again realize how good we have it.

Its the KISS syndrome Winnipeg. Let's do what we're good at which is working hard through the winter so we can play in the summer. Enough of trying to be like all the other cities, its time they started envying us.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Winnipeg Believes - but not in Advetorial

So its been two weeks now that the Winnipeg Free Press, in conjunction with the Winnipeg Chamber, have put out this "We Believe in Winnipeg" insert into the Sunday edition of the paper. When I first heard the idea, my fear was that the piece would simply be a cash grab for the Free Press to hit up the Winnipeg businesses who fall under the featured industry sector. The verdict - it's even worse.

First off, why wouldn't the Free Press look to engage the opinions of writers outside of the Winnipeg market? How fresh can articles on Winnipeg's agricultural and aerospace industry be when three of the five stories are written by the same person? The first edition featured Winnipeg's art scene. I just happen to have a friend who is part of the administration team for the Manitoba Theatre Centre, and he told me the interview for their article was a laugh. The writer asked questions like "what makes the MTC special?" What kind of amateur question is that? I'll tell you what it is, its a lazy approach by a writer uninspired by an article he obviously has no passion about. My suggestion...

Why not bring in writers from outside the province, have them tour the arts scene for a week, try different restaurants, stay in a few different establishments, and get a real flavour for what our city has to offer? They wouldn't need to ask 'what makes the MTC special' because they could formulate their own opinion and fresh perspective.

This second edition featuring the ag and aerospace industry is about as interesting a read as a Sunday grocery list. Tell me... is knowing that Boeing Winnipeg are a major supplier to the 787 Dreamliner program got anyone falling in love with our city? Where is the fun? Are these truly success stories meant to inspire or just an extension of the "City and Business" section?

I had the privilege of sitting down for an open forum put on by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce where a number of key Winnipeg business owners and professionals had their moment to talk about why they love Winnipeg and what they think of the "We believe" campaign. To my surprise, despite some of the gray hair in the room, most were saying that doing this in the newspaper is missing where most people would be learning about their city - in the classroom and on the internet.

One elderly gentleman brought up the recent YouTube sensation - Susan Boyle - and the 20 million odd hits on her performance on the "Britain's Got Talent" t.v. show. He was encouraging the Chamber to look at new media to send the message of why this city is great. I had a laugh because no one seemed to know of the "Incredibly Cool" campaign trying to convince the world that Winnipeg exists, and the Chamber - a supporter of the campaign - never mentioned it either.

I love Winnipeg, and I don't need my local paper to tell me that. The fact that I happen to be a young 30-something that actually reads the paper everyday is mainly due to the fact that I'm in advertising, and I look to see where Winnipeg business owners are advertising more than anything. I don't claim to have the answer to how we can help Winnipeggers get over their inferiority complex, but newspaper articles and YouTube videos that accentuate this negative feeling and come off as advetorial do more harm than good. Let's talk to the school boards to provide more positive content on our city's history and look to government to provide more subsidy for young people to enjoy entertainment. Keep 'em informed and entertained and they'll stay.