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Ad firm executives view new area brand as critical

Who would have imagined that a task such as branding a city could cause such a stir?
The Greater Rochester Visitors Association Inc.’s plans to launch a new brand for Rochester has upset city officials. Advertising agencies competing for the job are being cautious. And the Greater Rochester Enterprise Inc., a public-private economic development partnership, prefers to be a supporter, not a direct player.
Last August, the Rochester Business Journal reported on the need to blow the dust off the “World’s Image Centre” title, voicing concerns of those in the imaging and printing industry. And now the time has come to do away with it altogether.
“I always thought it was very solid, but it is not always about imaging. Talking about the area’s expertise has worn out its welcome,” says Joel MaHarry, creative director at Wolf Group Rochester.
MaHarry’s father, Robert MaHarry, was one of the brains behind an earlier slogan for the city: “I’d rather be in Rochester.”
Wolf Group is one of the contenders for the branding task. Others in the fray include Jay Advertising Inc. and Roberts Communications Inc., industry sources say.
Local ad folk unanimously believe Rochester needs to send out a unified message to the world, highlighting positive attributes of the area.
“Positioning should strongly convey the strengths and attitudes of a city. It should have other connections that you can play off of and use in various areas,” says Charles Ingersoll, associate creative director at Mason Selkowitz Marketing Inc.
The area’s positioning will speak to various audiences like those that are looking to relocate to the area, businesses that are planning to start operations here, visitors and most importantly Rochester residents.
“I don’t think we (Rochester) mean that much to people. Without branding we won’t have a unified image or identity and we should have a more active identity,” says Michael Stone, president and CEO of Brandorchard Inc.
What direction should the positioning take? “I’d rather be in Rochester” had a feel-good appeal while “World’s Image Centre” focused on the strengths of the region.
“We have to uncover something that is honest and true about the area and have a fresh take on it,” Wolf Group’s MaHarry says. “The danger is to just talk about the positioning or tag line, we need to look at what will help it or bring it to life.”
William Murtha, president and chief operating officer of Roberts Communications, agrees.
“It is critical for the city to have a consistent brand footprint. It is about a position and not just about words,” he says. “If we don’t have a clear perception people will remember us the one time they got tied up at an airport or got stuck in a snowfall.”
It could be an open statement like the one worn by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce: “Powerful thinking. Positive change.”
“I still remember ‘I’d rather be in Rochester’; it had a positive upbeat feel to it,” Brandorchard’s Stone says. “How we deliver the promise is critical.”
Mason Selkowitz’s Ingersoll, thinking out loud, suggests: “‘Rochester: the right connection,’ hinting at the telecommunications industry. Something that has other connotations that you can play off of.”
Branding a city is not as clear-cut as branding a new candy bar or a new line of clothing.
“It is different from rebranding or repositioning a product,” Murtha says. “We aren’t a product, we are a product of our people.”
Local authorities first need to come together for the effort.
“I see the GRVA’s role as come visit us; the GRE’s role as come relocate here. Someone needs to take a leadership role,” says Gregory Smith, president and chief operating officer of Jay Advertising.
But the city would like to use the “Make Time for Life” brand developed by Cognitive Marketing Inc.-a more than $300,000 process that was completed three years ago.
“It is a challenge for a community to get organized,” Stone adds. “Branding and positioning is about focus.”
Ad industry sources argue that the city’s branding effort was unfair-local ad shops did not have an opportunity to compete for the job. There was no request for marketing proposals, a local ad executive says.
Most of the agencies involved in the account pitch today are keen to get the job. Ad agencies that are known to be competing for the account have had opportunities in the past to promote the area’s activities and attractions.
Wolf Group is in the process of rolling out its work for Monroe County’s Seneca Park Zoo and Jay Advertising recently helped promote the Rochester International Jazz Festival.
Jay Advertising’s Smith expects to play a big role in promoting Rochester-related or unrelated to this particular campaign.
“We need to stand tall in what we have here; we cannot allow the new and fresh talent to leave here,” Smith says. “In my opinion, people are reaching out for this. I think we are on the cusp of really making a difference.”
The name of the winning ad firm is expected to be announced within the next few weeks. Will the authorities collaborate on pushing the region? Or will the region have two slogans?
That remains to be seen.
(To submit suggestions for campaigns to be featured in Inside Advertising or new-account information, contact Smriti Jacob by phone (585-546-8303), fax (585-546-3398) or e-mail (rbj@rbj.net).)

07/05/02 (C) Rochester Business Journal

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