Liverpool City of Culture
It’s not often you get the chance to celebrate an 800th birthday. Yet that’s exactly what the people of Liverpool will be doing later this month when their city celebrates its eighth centenary. August 28 2007 will mark 800 years to the day since King John granted Liverpool its charter, creating a city which has become internationally-famous and undergone several physical transformations.
The most recent of these is perhaps the most dramatic yet, as Liverpool regenerates itself to more closely resemble its growing reputation as a hub for culture and the arts. Extensive redevelopment projects, from King’s Waterfront to Paradise Street and Chavasse Park, are set to change the city as it prepares to celebrate its year as the European Capital of Culture in 2008.
Four years ago Liverpool competed against several other cities to win the prestigious title, which is set to attract a vast number of visitors to the city for a year of cultural events and celebrations, as well as attracting significant funding. In such a period of change, with the city literally transforming around it, Liverpool’s marketing sector is understandably upbeat.
Liquid is a design agency that was originally based in London, but relocated to Liverpool four years ago. The company now works with a list of clients that includes Fujifilm, Staple and Golden Square Shopping Centre. Client services director Lindsey Moore says: “I moved here from a Southern-based design agency and I’ve definitely noticed that it’s a very different marketplace. The North is much more vibrant and on the up, and as a Liverpool agency we have a real feeling of optimism which I didn’t feel in the South.”
Andrew Binns, business development manager of Rippleffect, a Liverpool-based agency that works with clients including Everton FC, Mersey Travel and Mace & Jones, is also optimistic about the city’s marketplace. He states: “We are very happy with the Liverpool market at the moment. The city is fast becoming renowned as a creative centre of excellence in the digital sector and many companies from outside the area are using Rippleffect.
“Our experience of Liverpool as a market is very positive and has allowed us to gain an excellent reputation in the north west, leading to us working with many clients out of the area and even breaking the difficult London market.”
This enthusiasm has, amongst other things, led to the creation of the Futures network, a collection of more than 40 Liverpool-based marketing companies. Backed by both Merseyside ACME and the Design Initiative, Futures aims to raise the profile of the Liverpool marketing sector.
Kevin McManus, director of Merseyside ACME, comments: “Futures is a unique network that can boast a membership with over three decades of professional expertise between them. It’s great to see businesses united in this way, something which has been acknowledged regionally. Initiatives like this can only be of benefit to the sector, the wider business community and the region’s economy.”
Yet the biggest news for the Liverpool marketing sector, as for the city as a whole, is surely Liverpool 2008.
According to the Liverpool 08 website (www.Liverpool08.com), two million additional visitors are expected in the city during next year, providing a massive opportunity for the city to raise its profile amongst tourist and business visitors alike. But in order to achieve the maximum impact from the Capital of Culture, it is vital that Liverpool’s message is conveyed well. The city is one of several throughout the UK that have seized the opportunity to reinvent themselves in recent years, along with cities such as Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow. The latter, also a previous Capital of Culture, perhaps has the most in common with Liverpool.
Gordon Ritchie, head of projects marketing at the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, believes Liverpool is doing an effective job of conveying its values in the run-up to 2008. He says: “They’ve had some difficult times with political problems and such, but since then Liverpool has moved on and the awareness of the City of Culture is high. I know a fair bit about it and the city, which is not something that I could say about cities such as Manchester and Sheffield.”
However, within the city itself there are those who feel that the marketing of 2008 has been too muted.
Simon Rhodes, a director of Smiling Wolf, an agency whose client list includes FACT and the Philharmonic Society in Liverpool, remarks: “I don’t really know what’s happening next year at all, to be honest. There is a campaign coming up but it’s pretty close to the wire. The thing was awarded three years ago and this is, what, August?
“We’re really excited about Liverpool but it’s just not being communicated. Liverpool 2008 should be a good thing for the city and I think when people actually get here they will see there’s a lot going on and lots to do.
“I just don’t think that the powers that be know how to put on a show. I don’t think the message is getting to a wider audience yet and I think by the time it does it might be too late.”
Derek Fraser of Liverpool-based advertising agency Thunk, agrees. Thunk’s experience includes work for the NHS and National Museums Liverpool, for whom the agency is currently developing a launch campaign for the National Slavery Museum. Fraser comments: “It’s all been a bit low-key. People are seeing a lot of work around the city at the moment, there’s a lot of construction going on, and I’d like to see them ramp up the level of excitement amongst the people of the city.”
Criticisms aside there is a general feeling that Liverpool 08 will be a positive event for the city’s marketing sector and business community as a whole. When asked by The Drum about the possible impact of the Capital of Culture on Liverpool’s marketing companies, a spokesperson for the Liverpool Culture Company (formed by Liverpool City Council to run Liverpool 2008) said: “European Capital of Culture is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Liverpool to position itself as a premier European city. Coupled with Liverpool’s continuing economic growth, we hope that this will present long-lasting benefits for all businesses based in the city.”
The businesses themselves seem to share this confidence.
Home has offices in both Leeds and Liverpool. Nick Jackson, director of Home’s Liverpool office, said: “For us the biggest opportunity is in Liverpool 08’s lasting legacy. Liverpool has come a long way in the last few years in refreshing its image, but what we want to see now is for national and international businesses to look at Liverpool as a place they want to be based. We’ve got a lot of music and other types of culture but the economic culture still needs to be built on.”
“I’m old enough to remember around 25 years ago when there where a number of nationally respected agencies in Liverpool,” says Fraser. “They all seem to have fallen by the wayside over the years, but it would be nice to think that the agency scene will see the same rehabilitation that the city is seeing due to Liverpool 2008.”
Liquid’s Moore adds: “The difference it will make for the agency scene, where the wider number of agencies will benefit, is through cashing in on the rising profile of the city and being proactive about shouting about the talent we have here. With the Liverpool Biennial also falling in 2008, there’s going to be a real focus on the arts next year.”
With Capital of Culture just around the corner Liverpool’s marketing industry, and the city as a whole, should be presented with ample opportunity to showcase their talents.