senior partner Robert Hocking has a few choice words for those planning Ottawa's branding efforts.
The branding assessment, being carried out by GPC Canada and Bytown Group, should be handed to the branding
committee by the end of November. The assessment is aimed at identifying ways to attract high-tech investment,
companies and talent to Ottawa.
Hocking is fearful that the TOP initiative might overstate the virtues of Ottawa, however, thereby killing the city's chances of
becoming world class.
"The best way to kill a bad product is great advertising," Hocking says. "What I mean by that is we can't brand ourselves as
world class because we're not. We don't have the substance for that kind of branding. People are going to show up on our
doorstep and ask, Where are the goods?'"
Hocking, who is also director of strategic planning for Acme, believes many of Ottawa's politicians and executives are
fooling themselves into thinking the city is world class. "There are world-class companies here, but the market is not world
class. I think we might be getting mixed up there," he says.
The first step to remedy this brainwashing, so to speak, is to travel to high-tech hubs, such as Silicon Valley, Boston,
Washington and New Jersey, he says. Only then will the branding committee get a realistic view of what Ottawa is and isn't.
"I'm terrified of some of the guys sitting on these boards in charge of branding the city," he says. "So many people here
have their heads up their butts, thinking we're so great. They probably haven't been outside the city for a long time."
Fellow ad agency representative Todd Marcotte of Edels-Marcotte (acquired earlier this year by Dynasty Components
Inc.) would also like to see Ottawa increase its presence in major American high-tech centres.
"To start with, if we are truly a high-tech destination, we have to have a major presence at major trade shows," says
Marcotte. "We could piggyback our high-tech companies (at the shows). After all, a lot of Ottawa's bigger tech companies
may be known as Canadian companies, but not as Ottawa companies."
Marcotte also suggests the branding planners use the Internet as a major marketing weapon not just as brochureware
to cultivate business opportunities between Ottawa and other high-tech centres.
Of course, there is always the question of money.
So far, TOP has handed out $50,000 to the branding initiative, and that should be supplemented by cash from the
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade's PEMD-I program.
"No question, the biggest obstacle I see for this will be money," says Don Hewson, a senior partner at Hewson Bridge and
Smith Ltd. "From what I've seen, the process they're following is the right one."
Hewson takes exception to Hocking's harsh words, saying his argument that Ottawa is not a world-class city is bogus.
"We have the goods. There's not going to be a lunch-bag letdown when people come here," says Hewson. "It's just a
matter of creating an aura around Ottawa."
As for Hocking's committee-bashing, Hewson takes exception. "On the contrary, these people sitting on the committees
travel all over the world all the time. In fact, I sit on both of the branding committees and I spend quite a lot of time travelling
to these places."
Nevertheless, Hocking is convinced the "Branding Ottawa" planners could be doing it better.
"If you want to win a Stanley Cup, you go out and get guys that have done it before," he says. "If I was in charge, I'd recruit
somebody who has been through it before. Go down to Silicon Valley and say, Come down here and live here for a while
to help us out.'"
Hocking also says he would drop the tourism angle from the "Branding Ottawa" initiative, saying Ottawa's tourism industry is
far from being world class.