Experience Regina apologizes after criticism over new slogans 'sexualizing' the city
Slogans such as 'Show us your Regina' and 'The city that rhymes with fun' received criticism
The organization in charge of tourism in Regina has apologized for slogans it used as part of a rebranding.
Tourism Regina rebranded to Experience Regina last week. As part of the move it unveiled several new tourism slogans. Reid confirmed the organization is apologizing for two of those slogans — "Show us your Regina" and "The city that rhymes with fun" — that received a lot of criticism online after the relaunch.
Tim Reid, CEO of Experience Regina (formerly Tourism Regina), published an apology on Sunday evening, days after unveiling the new brand on Thursday.
"I want to start by apologizing, on behalf of myself and our team, for the negative impact we created with elements of our recent brand launch," Reid wrote in a post published on social media.
"It was clear that we fell short of what is expected from our amazing community with some slogans that we used."
In an interview Monday, Reid took responsibility for the the rebranding's failures, despite there being others involved in the process — including stakeholders, agencies and focus groups.
When asked about his future with the organization, Reid said it will be decided by the organization's owners and board of directors.
He said Experience Regina learned over the weekend that "we just went too far."
"The city didn't appreciate it and our community didn't appreciate it and we just were wrong," Reid said.
Regina Mayor Sandra Masters is expected to speak about the rebrand and subsequent apology after city council on Wednesday.
Marketing tactics 'bumped into sexuality'
According to Reid, the Experience Regina theme and song received positive feedback, but some of the marketing tactics "bumped into sexuality" and "should never have done that."
He said the tourism organization "crossed the line on some of the poking fun at ourselves around our city name."
Reid said a conversation he had on the topic over the weekend stuck out in his mind. He said he was asked, "Would you be proud to have this conversation with your kids?"
"They were right," Reid said.
Anything that has a sexual nature or connotation, or has been the focal point of criticism from the community, has been removed, Reid said.
'Sexualizing the city'
Kristen McLeod, a former Tourism Regina board member and one of the many people that criticized the new slogans, called the campaign blatantly disrespectful to people in the city.
She wrote a letter to the mayor on the subject, and on Monday she spoke with Stefani Langenegger on CBC's The Morning Edition and again later in an interview with CBC.
McLeod said she was shocked when the rebrand was announced and she saw a section on the organization's website that said it wanted to make "Regina sexy."
"It's sexualizing the city when it isn't necessary," McLeod said.
She was curious what the slogan's sexual connotations suggest about the city and if male genitalia would have been a focus in the future.
The campaign led McLeod to feel she didn't belong in Regina for the first time in nearly 50 years she has lived in the city.
McLeod said she appreciates Reid's willingness to take accountability and wants to know how it the organization will move forward, but put the blame on the City of Regina and said both the city and mayor need to take responsibility.
Ward 1 Coun. Cheryl Stadnichuk posted to Facebook Monday afternoon stating she had no advance noticed of the campaign slogans and was "disappointed and appalled" with the "sexist messaging of the new Experience Regina."
"Do we want men harassing women in bars chanting 'show us your Regina?' There are so many serious ramifications of these slogans … as a society, we have a responsibility to teach boys and men about consent. These slogans do the opposite."
Stadnichuk said those responsible for the campaign must answer to council and the public about how the campaign was allowed to happen.
McLeod said after she went public with her concerns she received messages from parents concerned about how they should approach talking with their children about the slogans when they lean into, if not outright embrace, sexual innuendo.
"As opposed to kind of figuring out something that we can all get behind all be proud of, that you know your seven-year-old can say," McLeod said, pointing to the slogan "the city that rhymes with fun."
"When your seven-year-old can't — shouldn't, probably — explain the slogan of your city then that's a problem, don't you think?"
She said she doesn't take issue with businesses making products with similar slogans, but that the city should be held to a higher standard — especially given high rates of domestic violence in the region.
When McLeod learned that the organization will keep the name Experience Regina, she was taken aback. She said the name needs to change after it was ruined with the rebranding campaign.
The rebrand marked the first significant move from Reid, also the CEO of Regina Exhibition Limited (REAL), since REAL was put in charge of the the city's tourism organization last year.
It's an attempt to capitalize off a phrase popularized by "Experience Regina", a viral video viewed nearly 700,000 times after it was uploaded to YouTube in 2008.
The video exploded in popularity in 2018 after Jimmy Fallon played the song on The Tonight Show.
Due to the similarity between the words Regina and vagina, the name of the song prompted laughs from Fallon's co-host, members of his band and the show's audience.
The crude joke and the comparison is something the rebrand was meant to lean into, Reid told CBC on Friday.
At the time he said the connotation around the phrase was unavoidable.
"I think that that affiliation will always be an undertone that we face," he said, urging the public to be proud of the city's name no matter what.
"For those that want to have a moment of humour with it, that's not a bad thing. Embrace it. We're not changing the name of the city of Regina anytime soon."
Marjorie Delbaere, an associate dean with the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan, said there could be a problem with trying to capitalize on a viral song.
"I know people like to say ... all publicity is good publicity, but we strongly connect and code those negative feelings and experiences, and so even if we like what we're seeing it's very hard to distinguish it from what might have been that previous joke," said Delbaere.
Companies issue apologies
Despite the optimism on Friday, the tone from Reid and some of the companies that supported the relaunch appears to have changed, with organizations apologizing or pulling down posts that marked the rebrand.
22Fresh, a clothing company, originally advertised sweaters on Instagram with the phrase "The city that rhymes with with fun" emblazoned on the shoulder.
The post, which was a collaboration with Experience Regina, was deleted.
In a reply posted on the Experience Regina Instagram page, the organization said the hoodies are no longer available and will not be reprinted.
Last Mountain Distillery deleted a post celebrating the rebrand after some people were upset with the advertisement. It has now published an apology.
"We in no way meant for this supporting campaign to be triggering or 'gross,'" the post reads.
With files from Dayne Patterson and The Morning Edition