British feathers ruffled by New Orleans tourism campaign

Have you seen the new ad campaign that the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau is running, in the wake of the British Petroleum oil spill?

The campaign's colorful print ads showcase New Orleans' sense of fun and love of life. The ads are timely – although the city is 100 miles away from the Gulf coast, it's wise for the bureau to reassure tourists that New Orleans remains a great destination, given that some of the reporting from the Gulf makes it seem as if the entire region has been ruined by BP. Some TV ads are also planned.

There was one additional print ad that was to be part of the campaign. That ad carried the following slogan — “This Isn't the First Time New Orleans Has Survived the British.”

This is an allusion to the Battle of New Orleans, where future president Andrew Jackson defeated a British army in 1815. The dramatic story of this military confrontation has been memorialized in art, popular music and movies.

Stephen Perry, the Convention and Visitors Bureau's president and CEO, says that this particular ad, which has since been pulled from the main campaign, “was simply meant to reflect the pride [we] feel in our history, and to let people know that [we can] keep a stiff upper lip during times of tragedy.”

The ad emphasizes New Orleans' ability to survive by reminding readers of “its resilience and its unique character” (to quote Perry). You have to be pretty humorless to see it as anti-British. However, some British feathers were ruffled, so the ad is out.

“We didn't set out to offend the people of the U.K. who we know are being impacted financially by the oil spill, and we deeply regret any ill feelings the ad might have caused. In fact, the United Kingdom is one of our most important international markets for visitors,” Perry says.

The ad, Perry says, was just an attempt to show that New Orleans hasn't lost its sense of humor. And it definitely hasn't. The allusion to the Battle of New Orleans is pure satire.

Leave it to people in the lively city of New Orleans to find something to laugh about in the midst of tragedy. And leave it to thin-skinned people living elsewhere to miss the joke completely.

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