Paul Godwin, planning director of Positive Thinking offers his thoughts on Visit Britain's marketing campaign
Reacting with admirable speed, Visit Britain stated that they would monitor the tone and extent of media coverage abroad and allow the advertising to return to the overseas market when it feels the situation has calmed. Recent events already appear a little distant and are not expected to recur and but it is still too early to predict the real effect on tourist levels.
Next off the blocks came Visit England - announcing its biggest ever marketing push, which is planned to land next year in conjunction with the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and, of course, London 2012 to capitalise on a sense of national pride. It's important of course not to ignore that the reputation of the country can also have been damaged among its own residents, and given the recent growth of the 'staycation', the UK's own residents may need to be given reasons to celebrate and holiday in their own country, as well as overseas audiences.
Taking the bronze on launch is David Cameron's newly announced Great Britain campaign – focused on attracting overseas tourism. Again, this one leverages the celebrity angle to communicate the message of Cool Britannia 2011, employing Henry VIII, Branson, Cambridge, Wallace and Gromit. There's even mention of The Beatles. To my mind, it's a shame that the campaign focuses on such well known overseas British icons rather than the less celebrated tourist attractions which make the country such a vibrant destination. If people already know what you have and choose not to come then telling them again about the same stuff, in self congratulatory mode too, probably won't cut it.
Personally, I'm not convinced that I'm not sure that £500,000 spend will do much when the intention is to bring in four million visitors from across the globe; £500k won't even buy a dozen full pages in major US newspapers. The audience for this is undoubtedly the audience that are disenchanted with the financial situation here in the UK. Judging from comments on the Daily Mail website from readers 'makes you proud to be British' and 'This is a Great campaign! Britain was Great, and still IS.' They may be working – at least on the home front. But to get four million Americans to come to the UK, I remain unconvinced.
Given the country tourism boards are now carrying the torch for Britain both overseas and domestically, it is however critical that all travel brands benefitting directly or indirectly from UK tourism look to boost their investment in marketing now – otherwise cut-through may well be lost in the noise. In particular, this activity needs to show how Britain not only delivers quality service across a range of cultural and entertainment areas but does so at a price that is competitive with the rest of Europe and indeed the world. Any short changing on spend and a reliance on Visit Britain, Visit England or the government itself to save the UK's tourism revenues is both short term and short sighted.