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Monday, March 9, 2009

For Brand Atlanta, today was a closing day

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Where the music makes you drop to your knees

There is no other place I'd like to be

A-T-L, A-T-L (get 'em up, get 'em up, get 'em up, get 'em up…)

Ah, who can forget such deathless lyrics, as penned by Atlanta's hometown super-producer Dallas Austin? Well, actually, I had to look them up to refresh my memory because I hadn't heard anyone play "The ATL" in recent months.

And you probably won't be hearing it much any time soon. On Monday, Mayor Shirley Franklin announced that Brand Atlanta, the city's flashy marketing arm, was being mothballed after three years due to the lousy economy. The marketing effort will no longer have a budget or a staff.

But that doesn't mean you'll never see the familiar bright red ATL bullet hole again. All of Brand Atlanta's existing designs, slogans and other self-described "assets" are city property and can be trotted out any time, Franklin said.

"We can continue to use the logo and song," she explained, referring to the Austin anthem. "Many people like the song; it depends which version you hear."

In fact, two new stores will soon open at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport selling ATL-branded merchandise using designs licensed from the city.

Monday's press conference seemed something of a defensive manuever to put a positive spin on an initiative that many Atlantans regard with embarrassment. While Brand Atlanta chairwoman Peggy McCormick diplomatically conceded that the notorious tagline "Every day is an opening day," did not prove to be a "home run," she said the city's branding campaign as a whole helped boost tourism.

Since 2005, Brand Atlanta has cost about $20 million. Eight million bucks of that were public funds, mostly collected through a hospitality tax; the rest came from private and corporate contributions. Thankfully, Austin donated his songwriting efforts to the city.

Most cities have marketing campaigns and most of those campaigns are less than memorable – just as most commercial advertising campaigns are less than memorable. Quick, can you recite Atlanta's current marketing slogan? It's "City lights, Southern nights.” Not the most original idea, perhaps, but perfectly respectable as slogans go.

If there's a lesson to be learned from Brand Atlanta, perhaps it's that it doesn't pay to over-think these things.

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