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Las Vegas: Gambling. Orlando: Disney. New Orleans:
Bourbon Street. Atlanta: Hmmm . . .
By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

May 10, 2005 - Las Vegas: Gambling. Orlando: Disney. New Orleans: Bourbon Street.

Atlanta: Hmmm . . .

City leaders are trying to define Atlanta for tourists, conventioneers, businesses and even locals.

Is it Scarlett O'Hara or Martin Luther King? Trees or traffic? Hip-hop or NASCAR? Major sports, big business or high art?

That's the problem facing Brand Atlanta, made up of several city organizations that include the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Midtown Alliance, the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and Mayor Shirley Franklin's office.

Atlanta is losing millions of dollars, boosters say, because it's hard to pinpoint the city's image.

B.A. Albert, whose Atlanta ad agency, Match, was responsible for the state's "Georgia On My Mind" campaign, said it's about time city leaders worked together to shape a brand.

Atlanta leaders are notorious for operating their agencies like fiefdoms, but Albert is encouraged by Franklin's push to bring diverse groups together to create a singular identity for the city.

"Somebody's got to put the hammer down and be the big fist to make it happen," Albert said. "That is huge."

Ken Bernhardt, chairman of the marketing department at Georgia State University and a Convention & Visitors Bureau board member, said Atlanta has promoted itself, but boosters send different messages to different constituents.

For instance, the Convention & Visitors Bureau bills Atlanta as "Big City, Southern Hospitality," which may work great for conventioneers, but is not necessarily the best tactic for recruiting companies.

Atlanta has most famously been the "city too busy to hate" and most infamously "the sports capital," a moniker laughed at by New Yorkers. The city also used "Atlanta: Come Celebrate Our Dream" to negligible effect during the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Albert estimated the city will need to put at least $15 million behind the branding effort, which Brand Atlanta hopes to launch by year's end.

He would like to see Atlanta spend even more and stage a national campaign like Las Vegas' wildly successfully "What Happens in Las Vegas, Stays in Las Vegas."

So far, only the Convention & Visitors Bureau has offered up money for the effort --- $150,000. Brand Atlanta is looking for more cash, said Jackson Kelly, executive director. Just how much a branding campaign will cost is "being determined," said Kelly, who is vice president of global marketing at Coca-Cola.

Among those being paid to create a branding vision is Joel Babbit, chief creative officer of Grey Worldwide Atlanta. The advertising agency, along with Lattimer Moffitt Communications, was hired in April to develop the campaign.

"When you are marketing a product or service, it's usually a singular personality that you need to convey," Babbit said. "In this case, it is a collective personality that you are trying to get across."

Branding is not simply about creating a slogan, industry experts said.

"A really good slogan will reinforce the meaning of the brand," Bernhardt said. "But you have to have the brand first."



"Live Large, Think Big"

--Los Angeles

"City of the Angels"


"Gateway to the Americas"


"Country Music Capital of the World"

--New Orleans

"The Big Easy"

--Philadelphia "City of Brotherly Love" ')


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