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Rhode Island tourism howler shows danger of not using a proper creative agency

Rhode Island is running a tourism campaign called ‘Cooler and Warmer’ so Havas PR (cue trouble) was commissioned to make a film using stock footage (cue more trouble). Havas roped in small local agency IndieWhip to put it all together. Which they did with the insertion of a skateboarding scene filmed in, er, Iceland.

It duly ran to the horror of the state’s governor, with the result that the CMO was fired and Havas and the agency had to give back quite a lot a lot of money. IndieWhip says it was never supposed to run with that footage but they’re having to make a new ad for free anyway.

The film somehow or other cost $450,000 to make, as part of a $5m campaign.

Even without the Iceland howler it’s still crap. Apropos our earlier story of media agency MEC going into the content business with Wavemaker this is what often happens. A PR agency in this case wins a creative assignment and just puts the brief, in all its glory, on screen.

And what’s the gondolier up to? In Rhode Island?

If you’ve decided to spend the money get a proper bloody agency.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

4 comments

  1. Stop whining you sadly hard done-by hack. Could it be that the “creative agencies” came in with pitches that were so appallingly horrible that they decided on this boring yet safe work. Were you a part of the pitch or were you looked over in the the invite process.

    Why is their a Gondola? Well perhaps if you could extract yourself from your creative little world you might assume that there is some type of theme park or mall with a gondola. You know! Like Vegas!

    This is not the most exciting promotion I have seen yet it is stunningly shot and as a foreigner and never having traveled to Rhode Island, it caused me a lot of interest. Doesn’t that mean it has at least done something in the way of effectiveness?

  2. There are many things wrong with this campaign, the gondolas aren’t one of them. To quote a Seinfeld episode: “They are real and spectacular.”

  3. Here in RI we have many diverse cultural events, one is called “Water Fire” where floating river cauldrons are lit bringing in thousands to Providence on summer weekends. When it was started years ago, someone came up with the idea to import gondolas from Venice to honor the city’s Italian heritage. Showing them in the video is quite appropriate, having a skateboarder in Iceland is not. Also, we are known as the Ocean State and have miles and miles of wonderful beaches in the southern parts of the State. Did you see any beaches in the video? The governor’s office is in a battle with local tourism boards, took money from them for the campaign, and completely ignored southern RI. They’ve got some real issues at the statehouse, the botched campaign is just a fraction of them.

  4. Fair enough, however, we do have a gondolier in Providence, speaking of the need for fact-checking

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