Will 'LIVE RIGA' live?

  • 2009-10-07
  • By Arta Ankrava

NEW CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF: City leaders have embarked on a mission to promote Riga as the 'Capital of the North,' to attract more tourism and international business events, by including the local citizens in the effort.

RIGA - The official new brand image, and slogan, for Riga was presented to the public last week by executive mayor Ainars Slesers, together with other members of the newly established 'Riga Tourism Development Bureau' (RTDB). The new team includes airBaltic President Bertolt Flick. After having modernized the image of Berlin, the German advertising agency 'Embassy' unveiled their idea for this new concept 'LIVE RIGA,' which seeks to boldly position the city as the 'Capital of the North.'

Slesers stressed that tourism was the new priority for the Latvian capital, but acknowledged the need for paramount change in order for the new campaign to be effective. He addressed issues such as the lack of public toilets, the attitude of some policemen and even fraud that goes on in several nightclubs in the Old Town as significant hindrances for the overall appeal of the city. Alongside Flick, the foundation's president and representative of its strategic partner airBaltic, Slesers has encouraged everyone to take part in making Riga a more pleasant place to stay, work and live. One of the supporting slogans is: 'Good for Rigans 's good for tourists.'

This succeeded Embassy's presentation of the concept behind LIVE RIGA 's a synthesis of the traditional and the new. Various four-letter words, such as 'feel,' 'work,' 'stay,' are to be placed in front of 'Riga' for different cultural events, products and services throughout the city. The logo is also to be accompanied with a banner of stylised traditional Latvian decorative patterns. The same stylistics are to be used in Web content and other visual communication media.

The logo's colors 's navy blue and lime green, visually resemble the airBaltic colors, though neither Flick or anyone else was quick to attribute this merely to coincidence. Albeit not traditionally 'Latvian' colors, they do represent one of Latvia's most recognizable brands. Since airBaltic so far has been responsible for the lion's share of the activities behind the birth of this new concept, this perhaps justifies the color scheme. Riga city controls 70 percent of RTDB, so it is still, theoretically at least, the main player.

All in all, the visual impact of the concept is fresh and attractive, intentionally Nordic, i.e. Scandinavian. It is clear that even though Riga is an appealing city, it lacks the easily recognizable qualities of Venice or Paris. Riga is a significant transit point in the region, unfortunately less of a tourist destination. Embassy accentuated the main focus on Riga as a vibrant, diverse city, a historic and modern gateway to the Northern, Eastern and Western markets. This sounds perhaps slightly cliche, but it is expected to be transformed into an increased flow of tourists, more international cultural and corporate events, bringing more jobs for Rigans.

The city's main asset, apart from its location, is its people. Slesers mentioned that Riga municipal police have also been involved in the partnership, in order to ameliorate the negative image some hold. He also spoke of the need to make city parks more people-friendly by allowing sitting on the lawns again, and installing state-of-the-art lighting in the parks around Riga Canal.

For now the budget of the new campaign is 1 million lats (1.42 million euros). Slesers hopes this will be increased to approximately 5 million lats next year. He mentioned Sweden's tourism budget of $21 million (14.3 million euros) as an example. To his mind, Latvia is Sweden's main competition in the region, so investing about half as much as our neighbors across the Baltic sea will only just about do.
Representatives from Latvia's Tour Agents' Association and the Hotel Association of Latvia encouraged private businesses to get engaged in the effectuation of the new brand, by offering new ideas and products. The only requirement is for high quality; other than this, everyone is welcome to use the logo for their events and services, free of charge.

How the process of bringing a fresh, new concept to life will work was not completely clear from the presentation alone. It was repeated several times during the meeting that the platform is ready, and it is now up to Rigans to bring it to life. It is also unclear how quality control will be applied for services and events that plan to use the LIVE RIGA message.

Sleser's immediate plans are to organize a major New Year's celebration in Riga that would attract not only locals to the city center, but potentially also tourists from abroad.
Riga municipality's Web site contained no information on the new slogan and logo, neither on the day of the presentation or afterwards; thus no help to businesses or individuals who want to take part in effectuating the new concept was immediately available. It might prove that, albeit the municipality is capable of generating potentially excellent 'umbrella' ideas, their Achilles heel is in the detail and execution. At the same time, it has been stressed repeatedly that this is supposed to be a two-way process, demanding mobilization and involvement from the private sector as well.

Even though some of Sleser's plans seem slightly over-ambitious and a bit far-fetched (especially in the current economic climate, some say), it is clear that forward thinking is the only way to come out strong on the other side of the crisis. RTDB has certainly been established to do exactly that. However, the devil is in the details, and if this plan is not communicated well enough to 'the common man' and to the 'Riga entrepreneur,' it will just keep swallowing up money. In this context, having actual private investors, such as airBaltic, might be a good thing, as they might be more reserved, acting less prodigally.

This is a great opportunity to involve unique, small-scale projects which would truly bring out the people as an asset of the city. Hopefully, considerable effort will be put into attracting associates and establishing much needed partnerships to make LIVE RIGA a truly pan-urban concept, not just a new slogan reserved for the Opera plus a handful of hotels.