An Ottawa 2017 Promo Fail

For those of you who aren’t aware, 2017 marks Canada’s 150th birthday! Some pretty big celebrations are taking place in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, and the city is busy promoting the hell out of the coming festivities.

I gotta say, when I saw the above ad on a city bus today, I was pretty disappointed in my hometown’s marketing and comms department.

At first glance, the ad (above) looks fine, but let me tell you what I see that’s going wrong here.

Here’s the first thing that’s failing.

YOWTTAWA? Yeesh. Ottawa’s airport code is YOW so this is some kind of redundant Frankensteined combo of two words that mean the same thing.

Not to mention this text is floating to the side, all alone, with no context. Is this the name of some event? A band?

“Ahh of course!” The realization hit me. “This is the Ottawa 2017 social media username, I’ll bet!”

A quick search told me I was wrong. No twitter handle @YOWTTAWA.

But Twitter did have some references to this promotional campaign. And I’m not the only person who hated it. It just sounds… well… dumb.

It seems like the promoters are trying to get the term YOWTTAWA trending, and yet they left out the most important thing! THE HASHTAG! That one symbol tells us the entire purpose its inclusion on the poster and how to find more information about it. Let’s all remember the golden internet comms rule – if people can’t find the info in two clicks, they’ll bail. And for this reason, YOWTTAWA is a fail. Hey that rhymed.

Locals with social media savvy are already using #YOW when talking about the city, and so even if the intention was to make YOWTTAWA a hashtag, it was completely unnecessary.

Secondly, we have this.

“Hey Angie, those are the social media icons for each platform! Of course they included that, silly!” This is what you’re saying to me right now, isn’t it?

Well, yes. They want people to know they’re on Facebook and Twitter and so on. But you know where putting a tiny icon works best? ON THE INTERNET.

When looking at a real-life poster on a bus, I can’t click on it. I can’t go straight to your account and follow you. These icons work great on a website. In fact, it’s imperative that you have those on your website. But all this poster makes me do is search for the accounts myself. And yes – that sounds lazy, but let’s circle back to the golden internet comms rule, which you definitely know by now.

How could this ad have been more efficient? Well, this campaign struggled from the get go with continuity in its setup. The official site is, you can find them easily enough on Facebook as Ottawa 2017 (although they  really need to use the custom URL feature), the Twitter handle is @2017ottawa (ooh so close!) and on Instagram they’re @ottawa_2017. They’re as consistent as they could get, I think, considering other users have snagged the account names they no doubt had in mind as their first choices. While it’s easiest, and certainly best practice, to say your brand is present on the Big Three (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) all with the same exact handle, it looks as though they did the best they could.

All to say, in analog format where I can’t click a link, just tell me exactly how to find you on each platform. QR codes are a failed technology that tried to solve this problem by allowing users to scan the image and be taken straight to a website or app download page. While you might still see them here and there, QR codes don’t usually have much pick-up, and are usually a waste of time and space in your ad. They’re like laser discs. They seemed super high-tech at first, but the public was kinda just like “Meh.”

I recommend that the Ottawa 2017 campaign bail on the use of YOWTTAWA. Although I have no stats/metrics/data/whatever-you-wanna-call-it on the success of the term within this campaign, all I know is that my gut feeling was ICK and HUH? Not to mention I found that other people on Twitter also found it unappealing. First impressions are everything and a product or company that’s advertising to us has mere seconds to make it a good one. That’s usually what the success of marketing and branding hinges upon – instinct and gut feeling of the consumer.


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