Public Sector: Citigate Smarts aids fresh image for Boro

Middlesbrough Council has drafted in the Manchester office of Citigate Smarts to dispel its industrial back-water image and to devise a new brand identity for the authority and the district.

Citigate, which won a three-way pitch for the account, is charged with encouraging the city's 60,000 households to compile the council's online survey on how they see themselves and the town and how they want to be seen (PRWeek, 12 November 2004).

Citigate Smarts Manchester managing director Steve Antoniewicz said: 'There is a corridor off the A1(M) filled with the smoke stacks of chemical factories, which is often what people associate with Middlesbrough.'

The decline of the steel industry has left more than seven per cent of the population unemployed, more than double the national average. Middlesbrough also appeared in the top ten of the UK's worst places to live, in the book Crap Towns II, published last September.

Instead, the council wants to be seen as progressive, visionary and forward thinking. Targets for promotion are its university, low congestion and regeneration projects.

A campaign to promote the town's final positioning and messages will run after the consultation phase from May, added Antoniewicz.

In addition to the survey, Citigate Smarts will ask small and medium-sized businesses for feedback through the local chamber of commerce's regular meetings and newsletter, and contacting the town's largest employers directly.

It will also hold focus groups for young people and ethnic minorities.

Antoniewicz said: 'We will look at what draws people together and ask how we want our audience to respond to the Middlesbrough brand. At the moment, Middlesbrough does not even appear on any signage until you are close. We need to put it, literally, on the map.'

Citigate is expected to net £50,000 for the account, which will run until the end of the consultation phase in May.

The contract may be extended into the second phase of the campaign - the implementation of the new brand - which will run until the end of the year.

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