Slogans such as 'Show us your Regina' and 'The city that rhymes with fun' received international attention
‘Experience Regina’ campaign faces backlash for sexualizing city
Tourism officials in Regina are backtracking from a campaign that capitalized on the city’s name sounding similar to a word for genitalia with slogans like ‘the city that rhymes with fun.’
After a month of criticism, ridicule and international media attention, Regina is pulling the plug on the failed rebrand of its tourism entity to Experience Regina.
It is going back to its original name of Tourism Regina and reactivating its website and social media channels under that name.
The board of directors for Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL) — the organization in charge of tourism promotion in the city — announced the decision on Thursday.
A news release provided an update after a period of radio silence: Experience Regina failed to return multiple calls from CBC over the past two weeks.
REAL was put in charge of the city's tourism organization last year in a decision by Regina city council.
"Over the past few weeks, we have been working with Tourism Regina, City Council and external stakeholders to determine the best path forward for our tourism agency," said Wayne Morsky, chair of REAL's board of directors in a statement.
As a result of the consultations, REAL announced it is going to conduct an independent review, conducted by a third-party, to examine all aspects of the development of the Experience Regina brand and its launch.
Any actions related to Experience Regina will occur once the independent review is complete and REAL says it will engage local community groups to ensure their long-term brand strategy is supported by everyone.
More details are expected to be shared at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
What's in a name?
Rebranding Tourism Regina to Experience Regina was initially sold as leaning into an old joke that is often made about the city due to it sounding similar to a word for genitalia.
When the Rolling Stones arrived in Saskatchewan's capital city in 2006, Mick Jagger even cracked a joke to the 40,000 fans in attendance.
"Someone told me, 'Regina, it rhymes with fun,'" he said.
A viral song popularized the phrase Experience Regina when it was uploaded to YouTube in 2008.
A decade later the synth-heavy song fronted by an off-key vocalist found a new wave of popularity after Jimmy Fallon played the song on The Tonight Show, prompting laughs from Fallon's co-host, members of his band and its audience.
The relaunch on March 13 received substantial fanfare with Mayor Sandra Masters and Reid being joined by the federal minister for tourism Randy Boissonnault as he announced nearly $6 million for tourism in Saskatchewan.
However, quite a few people raised concerns about the decision by a city-funded organization to employ a crude joke as its name.
The newly named Experience Regina continued to retreat as attention focused on the use of sexualized slogans such as "Show us your Regina" and "The city that rhymes with fun."
LISTEN| Mayor addresses concerns about Experience Regina's marketing campaign
An off-key song about Regina and a number of slogans that embraced a sexy — or sexist — marketing campaign. Tourism Regina transformed into Experience Regina a week ago. We ask the mayor about the fallout.
Hoodies that had been created in partnership with 22Fresh and emblazoned with "The city that rhymes with fun" sold out quickly but were scrapped entirely amidst the backlash.
Questions remain despite apology
Questions remain about who ultimately signed off on the slogans that drew the biggest flak.
Just five days after announcing the rebrand, Reid would apologize on behalf of himself and his team "for the negative impact" created by the attempt to lean into what many saw as a crude joke.
"The city didn't appreciate it and our community didn't appreciate it and we just were wrong," Reid said.
Masters has called the slogan sexist and wrong.
Masters also said the controversial slogans were not part of the preview given to city council ahead of the launch, a fact that was confirmed by multiple councillors.
In the immediate aftermath of the backlash, Ward 1 Coun. Cheryl Stadnichuk said she was planning to gather six signatures from council members needed to request a special council meeting and attempt to hold those who came up with the campaign accountable.
The City of Regina's clerk's office confirmed that as of Wednesday an application had not been received.
Since the initial comments from Masters and Reid, Experience Regina has remained silent.
Other than issuing a statement it has not posted on its social media channels since March 20.
The organization's website was wiped and it only showed a blue page. On Thursday, the website began redirecting all visitors to the now re-activated Tourism Regina web address.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alexander Quon is a reporter with CBC Saskatchewan based in Regina. After working in Atlantic Canada for four years he's happy to be back in his home province. He has previously worked with the CBC News investigative unit in Nova Scotia and Global News in Halifax. Alexander specializes in data-reporting, COVID-19 and municipal political coverage. He can be reached at: Alexander.Quon@cbc.ca.
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