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.

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