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June 02, 2005

The sore loser's column, take two 

The Wellington Region Gold Awards are still annoying me. Don't get me wrong: the good outweighs the bad that I encountered. I met some great people at Agenda, the organizers. I met radio DJ Phil O'Brien, who helmed the most entertaining programme (Matinee Idol) that was ever broadcast in the history of New Zealand's Radio Network. I met some great fellow nominees. And I met the Prime Minister.
   I was just asked if I would like to buy some advertorial in a newspaper that was doing a Gold Awards' special. I had already turned down one such offer from another paper during the awards, and not having been victorious, why would I want to remind people that we didn't win?
   As I have already diarized here, the Awards came across as the bludgers' awards. They were very untrue to their brand. They were portrayed as a celebration of innovation and business ingenuity, qualities which Wellington, New Zealand prides itself on. Yet, so many winners had government contracts. Or were being propped up by public funds. There was no room for the independent innovator: my table was full of them and they were losing out to well connected parties.
   A radio station manager said to me yesterday, 'Jack, I've seen it year after year. Don't worry. You get in now. Eventually you'll rise up the ranks and they'll give you one.' Sorry, mate, it's a single shot. We won't be entering again. I'd be discouraging anyone from entering. I had to apologize to a friend yesterday for even recommending the Gold Awards.
   The timing of the newspaper advertorial was bad, because it was after the Awards. But in addition, if the Awards proved to be at such odds with how they are represented, then why would I want to align ours with them?
   The sales' rep wrote back on email to say that perhaps it was not a good idea to do this advertorial section. I agreed with her.
   This was a case of brands failing to live up to their promises. The Awards for one. And that doesn't really matter that much for my everyday life. I didn't expect we'd win, and we didn't.
   But I think about what the judges were trying to do to Wellington. The city has been marketing itself as an innovative place. The Mayor (who was a judge in the Awards) has said as much. Filmmakers like Peter Jackson insist on staying here. But this supposedly high-profile awards' ceremony communicated one thing: that the powers-that-be in Wellington don't really believe in championing our innovative abilities. For them, it is better to go with croneyism and validate bludging.
   I don't even mind that, but can we please have a definitive statement about what my city stands for? Or shall we fail at branding our city just as we have failed at branding our nation?
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