Calgary skyline ripped off
Is this our city, or a South Korean economic hub?
Kerry Williamson, Calgary Herald
Published: Monday, July 23, 2007
One is a $640-billion industrial and maritime centre on the South Korean coast that has sprouted in just a few years and is expected to drive the Northeast Asian country's emergence as an international player.
The other is a city on the Prairies, nestled near the Canadian Rockies, an oil-rich hub with more than 100 years of history, a place that is emerging as an international leader all by itself. And, apparently, they look exactly the same, down to the pokey tower and skyscrapers.
"I think we should be like 'where's my credit,' " said Joe Fardell, president and CEO of Tourism Calgary. "I wonder who owns the rights?"
Calgary's iconic skyline appears in a full-page colour advertisement on page 62 of the June edition of The Economist, one of the world's most influential news magazines.
Only the thing is, the advertisement isn't for this city, and doesn't mention Calgary. And what it is advertising is very different from our fair city.
The display ad is for a monumentally massive emerging business centre in South Korea, called the Gwangyang Free Economic Zone, an area on the southern tip of the country on the Korea Strait.
It features a red carpet leading right into the Photoshopped city, a carpet that would run along 6th Avenue if it were real. And it features a headline proclaiming "We invite you to create a successful business in Northeast Asia!"
Northeast Asia? Or the northeast community of Abbeydale?
"At first, I felt like I was being ripped off," said Bruce Graham, head of Calgary Economic Development, "but as I thought about it, I'm actually quite flattered."
"Of all the skylines in the world these guys could have used, they actually chose Calgary's," Graham said.
The picture is so clearly of Calgary, albeit with a few towers switched around, that the folks at this city's development agency believe we may actually get a boost from Gwangyang's ad.
"More than a couple of times an architect or an urban planner would suggest to me that downtown Calgary is lacking in vitality and appeal and architecturally isn't up to standard," said Graham.
"But I guess it's all in the eyes of the beholder. The bottom line -- we are flattered by it."
The magazine offered no comment on the advertisement, other than to say it was designed by a London firm on behalf of the Korean free economic zone authority.
The Economist is well aware of Calgary. In 2006, it ranked the city as the second best in the world for business travellers.
Brent Ritchie, head of the World Tourism, Education and Research Centre at the University of Calgary, said the designers of the advertisement should be "hammered" for their use of the city's skyline.
He pointed out that photographs of the free economic zone are dramatically different from what the advertisement portrays by using a picture of downtown Calgary.
"It's kinda sad-looking. It really is a misrepresentation, and I think it's quite unprofessional and I don't think they should be doing it," said Ritchie.
"They must know they were going to get picked up on it. It just seems a kinda silly thing to do, you just don't do these things."
Fardell, however, said that any publicity is good publicity, even if that publicity is a tad confused.
"It's a tribute to our skyline," he said. "And it's free advertising for us -- if anybody knows where it really is."
© The Calgary Herald 2007