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Hitting the spot

Richard John looks at the best of the worst marketing campaigns, including Vilnius' risque 'G-spot' slogan.

rjI have no doubt that most readers would struggle to find Vilnius on a map, which is why you probably missed its controversial advertising campaign (it’s the capital of Lithuania, it’s very beautiful, and their promotional office ran an advert describing the city as “the G-spot of Europe”).

A number of people who clearly need to get out more complained to the Advertising Standards Authority who ruled the ad  was ‘risqué’ and ‘sexually suggestive’, but was also light-hearted and humorous and so unlikely to cause widespread offence.

In the #metoo era it seems that the saucy sense of humour has been well and truly buried, although it seems that the number of complaints could be counted on one hand. The Go Vilnius Board described the advert as taking ‘a playful approach which aimed to be attention-grabbing in order to introduce consumers to Vilnius as a tourist destination, a place that may not have previously been on their radar.’

The ASA stated: “We acknowledged that some might find the ad distasteful, but the ad did not objectify the female character and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.”

Of course, the challenge for all destinations that try to reach out to the conference organisers, association managers or international exhibitors, is how to stand out in what is a very crowded market. The ‘What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas’ is a great example of this, created in 2003 by the city’s ad agency in an attempt to move the destination away from the image of gambling. The advert was hugely successful with its emphasis on freedom and attracted millions of new visitors. 

Such is the trouble with creating campaigns that can backfire, a decade ago Hong Kong’s new campaign was ‘Takes Your Breath Away,’ which sadly launched at the same time as the SARS outbreak, a flu-like condition which did precisely that. And spare a thought for the unofficial attempt to promote tourism Down Under. The campaign, wrongly credited to the Northern Territory’s official tourism department, saw social media bombarded with the message “CU in the NT”. The campaign was branded ‘obscene and offensive’ by Australia’s version of the ASA, but by that time it had been seen by millions globally.

It’s said that there’s no thing as bad publicity. Whether that’s true for destination marketing remains to be seen.