This is Edinburgh

Economy spokesperson Gavin Corbett welcomes “This is Edinburgh”, promoting the city centre.

I had a sneak preview of the new city centre marketing campaign “This is Edinburgh” earlier this week. Watching the presentation and the adverts I had a premonition that the assembled group – male councillors in their late 40s or older – may not have been the target audience, so I should probably keep my (entirely subjective) opinion of the adverts to myself.

That is because the aim of getting people back into the city centre is the right one. It is hard for the city centre to compete, like for like, with online retail or out-of-town malls if the customer is simply after quick and bulk purchasing of three jumpers and two skirts. But where else can rival the elegance of the New Town or the anarchic twists of the Old Town? Where else the range of cafes, bars and street vendors? The museums, galleries and green spaces?

The research lying behind “This is Edinburgh” threw up one clear conclusion – that people want to see the uniqueness of Edinburgh brought to the fore. It is hard to get that on Princes Street, with its ubiquitous chain stores, but there are still plenty defiantly Edinburgh brands in the city centre who need to be brought front and centre.

And one of the really attractive features of the city centre is how compact it is. It’s made for people walking and cycling and it is disfigured by too much traffic choking it up. The best, most vibrant city centres, across Europe, have discovered that and encouraged people to come in to the city by train, bus or bike and enjoy it at a human-scale.

And finally, there is impact. The campaign is costing £1 million – of which £200,000 is coming from the City Council directly, with a further £400,000 from the council-funded Marketing Edinburgh. The economic impact is estimated to be £50 million. However, in the absence of any means to recoup the investment locally, rather too much of that economic gain, for my liking, will leak out to to companies well beyond the city.

So I’ll be looking forward to the evaluation of “This is Edinburgh”, to ensure that the £1 million investment has delivered additional value (as opposed to catching a trend that was happening anyway0; and to debate further how such campaigns can wash their face financially, leaving scarce public funds for frontline services.

In the meantime, this in, indeed, Edinburgh. And much the better for it.