Amazing city promotional campaigns of our time: “Would you, in Łódź?”

Look! Łódz! Image: screen shot from ad campaign.

If you've spent any time glumly staring at BBC World News – because, say, you're in a hotel room in rural Mongolia, all the bars are closed, and it's the only English language TV station you've got – then you might have noticed something weird about it. Unlike most BBC stations, it shows adverts. And unlike most other TV stations, many of those adverts aren’t for products. Some of them are for places.

More often than not, they're not places you've ever considered going to.

The logic behind this, one assumes, is that the sort of people likely to find themselves watching English language news stations for extended periods of time are disproportionately likely to be those who are travelling for work. Advertising on BBC World News, therefore, is a good way for a city to get its name in front of people who have NGOs/government agencies/investment funds of the sort that would come in pretty handy to an up-and-coming city. 

But it does mean you get adverts like this one for Poland's third city Łódź – a city so lacking in international reputation that the primary purpose of the entire ad campaign is clearly to teach global business travellers how to pronounce its name. (Woodj, since you ask.)

Here’s the clip. It's only 40 seconds long – a series of shots of the town, narrated by an upbeat American actor – so I've transcribed it below, to enable my mockery.  

Would you like to visit Poland’s – even Europe's – longest street of shops, restaurants and bars? 

What I like about this claim is the slight uncertainty in the language. “We think it's the longest commercial thoroughfare in Europe.” “So say that.” “Well we want to, but we don't have the budget to check the entire continent.” “Don’t worry, Piotr, I’ve got an idea.”

On googling, though, Ulica Piotrkowska – the street in question – does turn out to be pretty darn long. It's 4.9km (3 miles) which is a lot longer than Oxford Street. Look:

And this in a city of just 740,000.

So, yes, good reason to visit Łódź.

With a modern shopping complex?

Funny the way this is a bit of an afterthought. I mean, I guess it’s to help them spread the clips out better, but it does just sound like they forgot.

Also, note the use of the word “modern. Here it is:

Modern, see? None of your rubbish.

Would you like to see more festivals than Rio? 

Googling the words “festivals Łódź brings up links to the Łódź Design Festival, the Light Move Festival 2013, the International Festival of Comics and Games, Łódź Tango Salon Festival 2016.... which, to be fair, is a lot of festivals. 

That said, Rio isn't famous so much for the quantity of its festivals as for their size: each year the carnival, the world’s largest, brings an estimated 2m people onto the city's streets. But International Festival of Comics and Games will no doubt be matching that figure any year now.

...relaxing gardens? A famous film school?

Not that famous, if we're honest. Also, I'm not sure “Roman Polanski started here is quite the selling point it used to be. 

...and entertainment all year round?

Would you be surprised how its spelt? You would! 

Welcome to Łódź!

And that's when it becomes clear: as pretty as the cinematography is, the whole thing has been one long attempt to teach you how to pronounce the name Łódź. The campaign revels in the name of “Would you in Łódź? which doesn't even make sense, but does at least work as a pun.


It's easy to mock all this (as you can tell, from the fact I just mocked all this). But on the other hand, it's probably eight years since I saw that ad in a hotel room – and I still remember it. Before watching it again today I would probably have struggled to tell you anything about the range of attractions available in Łódź – but I have never, ever forgotten how to say its name.

Would I, in Łódź? Oh yes. Oh yes I definitely Łód.

If you have seen a brilliant/terrible/brilliantly terrible promotional campaign for a city, please do get in touch. Fills the space, doesn’t it?

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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Everything you ever wanted to know about the Seoul Metro System but were too afraid to ask

Gwanghwamoon subway station on line 5 in Seoul, 2010. Image: Getty.

Seoul’s metro system carries 7m passengers a day across 1,000 miles of track. The system is as much a regional commuter railway as an urban subway system. Without technically leaving the network, one can travel from Asan over 50 miles to the south of central Seoul, all the way up to the North Korean border 20 miles north of the city.

Fares are incredibly low for a developed country. A basic fare of 1,250 won (about £1) will allow you to travel 10km; it’s only an extra 100 won (about 7p) to travel every additional 5km on most lines.

The trains are reasonably quick: maximum speeds of 62mph and average operating speeds of around 20mph make them comparable to London Underground. But the trains are much more spacious, air conditioned and have wi-fi access. Every station also has protective fences, between platform and track, to prevent suicides and accidents.

The network

The  service has a complex system of ownership and operation. The Seoul Metro Company (owned by Seoul City council) operates lines 5-8 on its own, but lines 1-4 are operated jointly with Korail, the state-owned national rail company. Meanwhile, Line 9 is operated jointly between Trans-Dev (a French company which operates many buses in northern England) and RATP (The Parisian version of TfL).

Then there’s Neotrans, owned by the Korean conglomerate Doosan, which owns and operates the driverless Sinbundang line. The Incheon city government, which borders Seoul to the west, owns and operates Incheon Line 1 and Line 2.

The Airport Express was originally built and owned by a corporation jointly owned by 11 large Korean firms, but is now mostly owned by Korail. The Uijeongbu light railway is currently being taken over by the Uijeongbu city council (that one’s north of Seoul) after the operating company went bankrupt. And the Everline people mover is operated by a joint venture owned by Bombardier and a variety of Korean companies.

Seoul’s subway map. Click to expand. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The rest of the lines are operated by the national rail operator Korail. The fare structure is either identical or very similar for all of these lines. All buses and trains in the region are accessible with a T-money card, similar to London’s Oyster card. Fares are collected centrally and then distributed back to operators based on levels of usage.

Funding

The Korean government spends around £27bn on transport every year: that works out at 10 per cent more per person than the British government spends.  The Seoul subway’s annual loss of around £200m is covered by this budget.

The main reason the loss is much lower than TfL’s £458m is that, despite Seoul’s lower fares, it also has much lower maintenance costs. The oldest line, Line 1 is only 44 years old.


Higher levels of automation and lower crime rates also mean there are fewer staff. Workers pay is also lower: a newly qualified driver will be paid around £27,000 a year compared to £49,000 in London.

New infrastructure is paid for by central government. However, investment in the capital does not cause the same regional rivalries as it does in the UK for a variety of reasons. Firstly, investment is not so heavily concentrated in the capital. Five other cities have subways; the second city of Busan has an extensive five-line network.

What’s more, while investment is still skewed towards Seoul, it’s a much bigger city than London, and South Korea is physically a much smaller country than the UK (about the size of Scotland and Wales combined). Some 40 per cent of the national population lives on the Seoul network – and everyone else who lives on the mainland can be in Seoul within 3 hours.

Finally, politically the biggest divide in South Korea is between the south-west and the south-east (the recently ousted President Park Geun-Hye won just 11 per cent of the vote in the south west, while winning 69 per cent in the south-east). Seoul is seen as neutral territory.  

Problems

A driverless train on the Shinbundang Line. Image: Wikicommons.

The system is far from perfect. Seoul’s network is highly radial. It’s incredibly cheap and easy to travel from outer lying areas to the centre, and around the centre itself. But travelling from one of Seoul’s satellite cities to another by public transport is often difficult. A journey from central Goyang (population: 1m) to central Incheon (population: 3m) is around 30 minutes by car. By public transport, it takes around 2 hours. There is no real equivalent of the London Overground.

There is also a lack of fast commuter services. The four-track Seoul Line 1 offers express services to Incheon and Cheonan, and some commuter towns south of the city are covered by intercity services. But most large cities of hundreds of thousands of people within commuting distance (places comparable to Reading or Milton Keynes) are reliant on the subway network, and do not have a fast rail link that takes commuters directly to the city centre.

This is changing however with the construction of a system modelled on the Paris RER and London’s Crossrail. The GTX will operate at maximum speed of 110Mph. The first line (of three planned) is scheduled to open in 2023, and will extend from the new town of Ilsan on the North Korean border to the new town of Dongtan about 25km south of the city centre.

The system will stop much less regularly than Crossrail or the RER resulting in drastic cuts in journey times. For example, the time from llsan to Gangnam (of Gangnam Style fame) will be cut from around 1hr30 to just 17 minutes. When the three-line network is complete most of the major cities in the region will have a direct fast link to Seoul Station, the focal point of the GTX as well as the national rail network. A very good public transport network is going to get even better.