First published Monday, February 24, 2014
Across a range of media sources today comes news of the upcoming launch on 1st March, St Davids Day, of Visit Wales’ “£4m advertising campaign launch to boost Wales tourism”. In the industry newsletter send out today notifying of the “Have you packed for Wales?” campaign, we are told that it is designed to encourage visitors to ‘pack an open mind, a sense of adventure and an appetite for discovery’, and targeting the UK and Irish markets.
Featuring music by Cerys Matthews, and shots of places such as St Davids Bishop’s Palace, mountain bike centre BikePark Wales, Caernarfon Castle, along with dolphins playing in Cardigan Bay, it is beautifully filmed, and has some pretty impressive scenery shown in it.
Visit Wales, the arm of Welsh Government charged with promoting the Welsh tourism industry, has spent the last two years working on the Wales ‘brand’, engaging the services of Mike Ashton of ABCG to contribute to this. In November last year he spoke at the Wales Tourism Alliance conference, detailing some of the work that had been undertaken, and hinting at the exciting advertising campaign we could expect to help promote Wales to the wider market. It all sounded very positive, suggesting some really great things were coming.
After watching the advert this morning, I have to say that personally, I am hugely disappointed. Colleagues in the office have watched it, and in amongst feedback received so far from members are comments like ‘It wouldn’t make me want to come to Wales, and I live here!’ and ‘The music is a bit ‘twee’ making Wales seem like an innocent folklore destination rather than a vibrant and up to date, sophisticated destination with amazing scenery and high quality accommodation’. There are some who like it, saying that ‘It’s better than the last one’, although given the very mixed response to that, I’m not sure that’s great recommendation. Whilst the quality of the footage is mostly good, at least to my non professional eye, the content, and the slow pace of the music, does not, for me, successfully inspire a desire to ‘pack an open mind, a sense of adventure and an appetite for discovery’.
I, along with many others in the industry across Wales, fully appreciate that trying to define a clear ‘brand’ for Wales is an extremely difficult task. As yet, it would seem we still have not found the magic formula enabling an automatic and instant association with the country for the visitor in the way Ireland and Scotland have. However, what has come up time and time again in discussion forums at various meetings, both locally and nationally, has been a wish to see Wales portrayed as vibrant, a country with much to offer across the spectrum, celebrating heritage and culture, with something to offer for everyone.
Now, granted, it could easily be said that the latter points in that statement (broad offering, celebration of heritage and culture, something for all ages) have been picked up in this advert, after all it shows mountain biking and castles, and different ages of people, but does it portray a vibrant and passion filled country? For me, no, it doesn’t. Whilst there are youngsters featured, trailing fingers in the water on a boat trip, and apparently filled with awe by the castle before them, I’m not sure it cuts it in the excitement stakes. Mountain biking is an active pastime, but the way it has been filmed doesn’t really do it justice.
Wales does offer something for everyone of all ages, all abilities, and all pockets. If you are looking for a romantic retreat, Wales can provide that. If you want an adrenalin fired, action packed weekend, Wales can do that too. Groups, families, independent travellers, all are shown in the film, but for me at least, I still can’t shake the feeling of it being rather ‘staged’. Yes I know it’s an advert and will have been scripted, choreographed and so on, but does it have to be that obvious?
I understand that there will be future instalments in the campaign across the year, picking up on different aspects of the offering here in Wales. As such, it may well be that my personal opinion on the first offering is a little harsh, and that I’ve not given the campaign a chance to mature and develop. The Minister, Edwina Hart, is quoted as saying that “Some of our recent consumer research work however suggested that people aren’t necessarily aware of all the great things to see and do here in Wales, so this campaign tackles that misconception head on”. I am not yet convinced that it does. I hope that over the course of the year, the £4million spend on this campaign does prove to be good value for money and provide a strong return on the investment, preferably by showing the energy, passion and vibrancy contained within Wales.