09 August 2006

Watching Tom Hedderson

The Department of Tourism, Culture, Recreation and Personal Promotion for the Minister is running a series of cheesy televisions spots on Rogers Cable in the St. John's area and likely on Rogers cable outlets across the province.

In the St. John's area, the spots are running in support of a summer replacement show for Out of the Fog that is similar in format and which has sucked up so much of the local Rogers budget that the usual broadcasts of the annual regatta were scrapped this year.

The spots don't appear to be part of the usual tourism promotion; heck, they wouldn't be part of any credible promotion designed to get people to travel around the province and see the sights.

You won't find reference to these spots in the tourism marketing strategy. The in-province approach lists these objectives:
- to increase resident in-province travel and expenditures by motivating residents to vacation in-province.

- to increase resident knowledge of activities and attractions that occur during all, spring, and winter seasons as well as the summer period.

- to increase frequency of travel by motivating residents to take additional and more frequent short trips during the shoulder seasons as well as their annual summer vacation. Increase focus on the shoulder seasons.

- to provide value-oriented advertising opportunities for tourism operators.
The spots feature cabinet minister Tom "The Watch" Hedderson purportedly kayaking and doing other stuff he clearly doesn't do in his real life.

As much as the marketing gurus are likely to come up with a bunch of excuses for wasting the money explanations for this particular advertising concept, I doubt very much ordinary people would accept the idea that seeing a politician most of them barely know looking incredibly stiff and uncomfortable would support these objectives.

The reality is that these spots just don't fit into the professional ad campaigns we've come to expect from our tourism marketing campaigns. No one should blame the agency of record (AOR). The new AOR has turned out some decent spots and worked to apply the marketing strategy. Their stuff can be found a Tourism Newfoundland and Labrador under the title "Beauty on Film" in the "Sights and Sounds" section.

The "Watch Tom Hedderson Float in a Kayak and Pray to God it Doesn't Flip Over" campaign isn't on film and it is far from beautiful.

Bad enough that the Williams administration has been wasting a great deal of its advertising dollars over the past couple years on this kind of bumpf, just like the Grimes and Tobin crowd before them. Surely everyone has heard - and then quickly started to ignore - certain ministers appearing on VOCM talking about summer driving season, as part of VOCM's usual summer advertising, moreso than doing anything substantive for the public and the government.

Bad enough that over the past 10 years all members of the House of Assembly and cabinet ministers have gone back to the hideous Peckford era practice of spending tax dollars to send messages of greeting to this and that group featuring little more than their smiling mugshot.

Basically, what we have running on Rogers is nothing more useful than some personal promotion for the minister at taxpayers expense. Since it's television, we have to ad in the production costs of the different spots and the ad time to see it is one of the most useless and at the same time most costly of these personal promotion for politicians.

The spots should stop immediately since they represent an entirely inappropriate way to spend public money.

Over the past few weeks, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have been treated to one too many stories of politicians - Liberal and Conservative alike - who, over the past decade have spent public money to their own individual benefit. They've watched the stories spill out and the politicians fumble with excuses and inadequate responses. Now they can share Tom's "watch" fetish.

Tom and his colleagues should know that the public are watching closely.

They shouldn't assume the public is liking what they are seeing.