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Did ads scare Londoners away?

Thursday, August 02, 2012 - 02:44

Aug. 2 - London is usually one of the world's busiest cities, but business groups and retailers have been complaining that an ad campaign designed to warn people of potential travel disruptions during the Games may have frightened away their customers. Matt Cowan reports.

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++ WITH UPDATED SCRIPT++ SOUNDBITE: Matt Cowan, Reuters Technology Correspondent "In the run up to The Olympics there was a great deal of concern over how London's aging transport system would cope with the massive influx of vistors here for the Games. The Mayor of London commissioned the ad agency M&C Saatchi to come up with a campaign to warn people of potential disruptions." Among the messages: it will be a tight squeeze. Expect delays. Plan alternatives to your usual commute. There was even a humorous online video campaign emphasizing that anything could happen. NAT SOUND This was the fear. The reality has been quite pleasant for those Londoners who decided to take a chance and pop out to the shops. SOUNDBITE: Jenny Eynon, London resident, saying (English) "We were just saying it's a lot quieter than it usually is. Perhaps a lot of Londoners have fled for the countryside." It's been a tough situation for some business owners, who've complained that the warnings scared away their customers. Connan Gupta owns a hotel in Paddington. SOUNDBITE: Connan Gupta, Hotel Owner, saying (English) "We're down by about forty percent on bookings for this period. What we've had to do to compensate for that is to reduce our prices." But the agency behind the Get Ahead of the Games campaign is not apologizing. Elspeth Lynn is the executive creative director for M&C Saatchi. SOUNDBITE: Matt Cowan, Reuters Technology Correspondent saying (English) "Is there any concern that you might have been just a bit too effective?" SOUNDBITE: Elspeth Lynn, Executive Creative Director, M&C Saatchi saying (English) "I think it's important that it's not chaos. I think that's absolutely what London and the Olympic Committee wanted to avoid. And Transport for London as well. I think it's absolutely been a success and we know for a fact that 43 percent of people have actually altered their routes because of the information and advertising campaign that let's people know how to get ahead of the Games." The ad firm has even launched its own temporary bike scheme to encourage employees to cycle to work during the games. So while most Londoners have the option of renting so-called Boris bikes, named after the cycling mayor Boris Johnson who championed the scheme, M&C Saatchi employees can bring home a Maurice bike - named after the firm's co-founder Maurice Saatchi. SOUNDBITE: Elspeth Lynn, Executive Creative Director, M&C Saatchi saying (English) "It is about making it reality, not just a series of ads. It's about how to get around in the most effecient way possible and of course bikes are the most efficient, environmentally-friendly way to get around the city of London." Transport for London has now dropped a recorded message by the Mayor warning of congestion on the network in favour of a more upbeat message encouraging people to check out the city's restaurants and nightlife. Matt Cowan, Reuters.

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Did ads scare Londoners away?

Thursday, August 02, 2012 - 02:44