Saturday, April 11, 2009

This Ain't Cool

Flint Journal columnist Andy Heller weighs in on an Ottawa ad agency's insulting "This Ain't Flint" campaign:
Believe me, Ottawa, no one regrets our lack of foresight more than us. We recognize our mistakes. As I say, fixing them has been difficult, to say the least. May you never find yourself in our position.

But if you do, I like to think that we'd have the decency not to mock you, thus adding to your burden.

Now, all that said, I realize this ad campaign is just that -- an ad campaign for a radio station. It doesn't speak for the people of Ottawa. It speaks merely to the hearts and judgment of the twits who wrote it.

To you people, I'd like to say this: Shame on you.

Believe it or not, human beings live here. Most of us have jobs, don't eat rabbits and don't shoot our neighbors, regardless of what you might have heard.

And the tourism agencies for Flint and Ottawa have teamed up to denounce the campaign:

Noel Buckley, President and CEO of Ottawa Tourism, said he was made aware of the campaign today and was disappointed by it. He is asking that the ad company stop using the photos taken from his agency’s Web site. He’s also contacted officials with the Newcap radio stations to convey his concerns with this campaign.

“Images of Ottawa can be downloaded by anyone from our Web site for promotional purposes,” says Mr. Buckley. “They are not intended to be used unfairly to portray other destinations and this is clearly an unfair comparison between Flint in 1989 and Ottawa today.”


  1. VVürstsydæ VVårlørdæApril 11, 2009 at 7:55 AM

    Andy "Pulitzer" Heller lives in Grand Blank, not Flint. He moved from Mott Park years ago.

    Y'know what? After watching the video I've come to the conclusion that the folks in Ottawa are right. Seriously. Flint has been going down the tubes for 25+ years. What are we notable for? High unemployment, murder, rape, and arson rates. Closed factories. Abandoned homes. Don Williamson. The Dayton Family. Crack. Uh, oh yeah and a handful of decent basketball players.

    Ottawa is a wonderful city that has much more to offer than Flint. Flint has become a symbol of economic decline because... well... it is a perfect example of the repercussions of economic decline in Amer... er, North America.

    "Oh, but the people of Flint are wonderful. They have such a strong spirit and they are so kind." Enough with the "indomitable spirit" of Flint stories. Spare us. Flint is the pits. Everybody knows it. Ottawa is merely stating it has not yet sunk to our depths of depravity. A strange marketing campaign for sure, but true.

  2. WW, personally, I didn't think the video was inaccurate. Those things happened. It just seemed, what's the word, unsporting to pick on Flint...again. I wish another city could be the official economic catastrophe for a while. What's wrong with Gary, Indiana?

    Of course I write this knowing I write a blog that spends a big chunk of time dwelling on Flint as ground zero for deindustrialization.

    Also, the campaign seemed so un-Canadian. But maybe that's me displaying my positive bias for Canada.

  3. WW, please get off your high horse and stop being a Flint pure blood... this is an expats site... you don't have to live in Flint to comment on it.

    As for Ottawa... I could really care less what they say about Flint. My reaction to this ad is 'whatever'... my guess is that most people know where Flint is on the map... more so than Ottawa... so Flint is doing way better than Ottawa in my opinion.

  4. VVürstsydæ VVårlørdæApril 12, 2009 at 9:27 AM

    High horse. Ugh. If I ever make it to the top of the White Horse Tavern sign...

    Unless you are actually Flint Urinal hack Andy Heller, the comment wasn't directed at you.

    Dandy Feller oscillates between decrying Flint's "love affair" with the past and now defending the beloved city that he lived in for a few years between his time in the UP (which he'll remind you of ad infinitum) and GB. Read his column. Skim his books... if you dare. Heller is frequently annoying, yet inexplicably popular. I know its his job to weigh in on stuff, but I get the feeling that he really doesn't like Flint much, and has to mask his disdain with columns like this where he makes himself look like the defender of Flint.

    I doubt more folks know where Flint is "on the map" when compared to Ottawa. If they do it is for all of the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, using your criteria that Flint is doing way better than Ottawa based on absolute location would thusly rank us below Kabul, Gaza, the Sunni Triangle, and the Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

  5. Wow, this is weird but I was just discussing with a friend if anyone has ever been drunk enough — and nimble enough — to climb the White Horse horse. It's pretty high up there, but it seems like a real liability issue in a place like Flint.

    And we've gotta be more well known than the tribal areas. But I'm with you on the Sunni Triangle. It's got us beat.

  6. No offense to me, I just get tired of the bashing.

    Sunni Triangle? Never heard of it. :)

  7. they're hosers. period. try living in SooMi, and dealing w/the canuks. rude, very rude. they'll come down to shop at the groceries, walk past your cart and help themselves out of it, no apologies nor explanations. hosers. maybe we'll get lucky and one of the ICE drones will crash over their side of the border and there'll be an international incident...we'd have to send hillary over to smooth shit out. no wait. scratch that last part. tell you this about Flint: it ain't fake.

  8. Forget about what Flint has or doesn't have to offer: we've all got loads to say about that and that's hardly the point here.

    What about the advertising campaign, the video, the website and its objective: it’s all meant to promote the city of Ottawa. Sadly, the video spends the entire first part making negative statements about a completely different place. THAT is good PR? THAT is solid advertising? I think not. C’mon – what’s with the bashing - this is not an election campaign.

    And what’s with The Doll? No surprise The Doll falls flat in this campaign, too. Really good advertising can actually take a seemingly non-related image and weave into a campaign in a creative way that the viewer/reader retains and finds funny, or maybe even thoroughly irritating – but they retain it and associate with the place or the product or service. To be able to do it well, the advertiser has to be able to grasp the subtlety and communicate it – and it’s no surprise that this ad falls flat on that point. There's nothing cute about it, there’s no irony about it, there’s nothing wacky about it, there's no political or social statement being made, there is no common thread that anyone watching the video or checking out the website can pick up on and, you know, get. It's simply superfluous. No more, no less.

    All of this taken together adds up to one thing and one thing only: Newcap Radio made an enormous blunder hiring Alphabet Creative, a company which claims to make its clients "look good," to do their PR campaign. The "thisaintflint" campaign is not even so much as mediocre; it's just off the mark, in very poor taste, it demonstrates a lack of sophistication and is especially bad advertising for the company who made it.

    If I were Ottawa, I’d be pissed.

  9. It's a shame that Heller, the Flint Journal, the Ottawa visitors bureau and the Flint visitors bureau just didn't leave this video alone.

    As a result of all this media coverage the number of eyeballs to that video has skyrocketed. It's not exactly a "cool viral video" that is going to explode as the next internet sensation... it's just a good old fashioned nationalism "we're better than you nah nah" video, pure and simple.

    Not even worth commenting on.

  10. Hey Flint residents, Canada calling with another thing to apologize for. Add this to the list that includes Nickelback, Celine Dion and Jim Carrey. Please remember that this bonehead campaign is an advertising agency's self promotion, and has nothing to do with the real opinions of Ottawa and Ottawans.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at