24/08/2009

Rebranding London (or not)


At the end of last week it was quietly announced that the office of Boris Johnson was 'inviting' agencies to tender for the design for a 'brand for London'. (brandrepublic article here).

The project sounds really exciting and if handled properly, could make for a stunning case study in effective destination branding. The 'invitation' uses great phrases like "Set the vision for London" and "Special effort will be made to engage with the public" - All good so far.

Now comes the REALLY exciting part of the 'invitation' - as a government organisation it has to open the 'invitation' up to everyone and consider all comers....

"The GLA is committed to maximising diversity and welcomes applications from all sectors of the business community including small and medium sized enterprises."

So this means that everyone has a chance to tender and all entries will be considered equally, no favours, no preffered suppliers, no big name policiies right? right?

Wrong!

A tender this big, a project this high profile and they release the information 1 day before deadline for entries. If they are seriously welcoming applications from all size of agencies, then why would the application process be so ridiculously tight? Why? Well let me hazard a guess; it's because they have to write that in the 'invitation' to tender (yes the clue to my feelings are in the use of inverted commas on the word 'invitation'). Clearly there is no intention to allow agencies to compete equally. I'm sure notice of the project was carefully circulated to a few key agencies a long time ago.

Now please don't think i'm naive, i'm more than aware that this is a not a logo design competition and that a project of this scale is as much about the ability and experience to deliver (and defend) the work, beyond the design and testing stage. It's clearly a project for a well resourced, well experienced agency. But i thought the point of Government organisations abiding by standards is that they could allow opportunities to all and avoid this kind of insular dealings.

Running the project is ex Saatchi man Dan Ritterband, so we can all expect the usual suspects to be involved. Probably Wolff Olins, Landor, perhaps Johnson Banks then maybe a supposed wildcard like Fallon. Nothing to write home about, i'm sure each one could do a supberb job, but perhaps without really going outside of the usual suspects they never create the inclusive brand that they have set out to make!