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There are two sites that feature my podcasts. People who support them on the Web - find my palavering real fun. I jibe at politicians and others - whenever they deserve it. The podcasts here are separated into those in Macedonian and the few in English. There is "About me" page too and some family pics. I plan to run conversational Macedonian chats, but need experience. This is on an OSX platform produced on a GarageBand and featured by iMac on iWeb. This is yet another, my all-Macedonian language podcasting facility put together and maintained by my friend George Zafirovski, an interface Merlin who builds (quickly) his reputation in London, UK. He is quite professional. So

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Fine Project Cut by a Civil War


VISTOR SMIT, with the rector magnificus of the Belgrade Univewrsity
d-r prof. SLOBODAN UNKOVIC and my poor self IN A GALLANT EFFORT

Victor Smit, an extremely intelligent, superbly well mannered man (probably the best Dutch advertising copy writer for the past 20 years) stumbled upon me the other day while doing his groceries in a local super-market. It was a great surprise for I haven't seen him in ages. After "Come for a drink, I have some vintage bordeaux, same place, same phone" we promised to get together and call each other to fix the date. He did not call, neither did I.
My excuse was this piece: I wanted to publish the story about our last project he worked (and financed) his ass on. It is so well conceived, to beautifully wrapped and (seemingly) so easy to set it going that I simply have to present it. This post, in reality, is an invitation to the world's advertising community for a case study.

The Auto-newspaper Yugoslavia (Autokrant Joegoslavie) was conceived as a carrier, the messenger for the Registration Plate Project. The vast majority of the 490,000 Dutch tourists traveling to Yugoslavia for their summer holidays used inexpensive package (mainly airplane but also a lot of bus) arrangements. With d-r ph-d Slobodan Unkovic, rector of the Belgrade University with a chair in tourism and a great friend) we have discussed, together with Victor Smit, what could we, Yugoslavia, do in the Netherlands to entice the rich individual traveller ignite the BMW, the Audi or the Mercedes and drive along the Adriatic coast. We were to offer them free (overnights only) accommodation in top class hotels in specific resorts throughout Yugoslavia.

(Above, from left: d-r prof. Slobodan Unkovic, Marija Cvetkova-Popova, Victor Smit and my son in front of the YNTO head office in Amsterdam on Jan Luykenstraat, opposite the Rijksmuseum)
The penny pinching Dutch, like most of us, like nice things gratis, free, costeloss.
So, how does one explain to 5,000,000 Dutch car-owners that IF their car has a a registration plate containing the letters ZG and if it an Audi - the owner and the family will have THREE NIGHTS gratis in a superb 5-star InterContinental in the capital of Croatia? THe Yugoslavia Newspaper was to be the vehicle that would explain how does the registration plate of a Dutch car automatically allows its owners a free 3-nites stay in places like Split (the Diocletian palace, great events) or Belgrade and so forth. The Dutch buy about 450,000 brand new cars annually. They ride them to France, Germany, occsianally to Austria and Spain, but rarely to Yugoslavia or Greece.

The connection between Dutch and Yugoslav registration plates is in a way marginal. The Dutch had two letters dash two ciphers dash two letters on a registration plate. The Yugoslav plate consisted of two letters two ciphers dash three ciphers.
With the Dutch letters were allocated irrelevant of the domicile borough of the owner of the car.In Yugoslavia the letters denounced many different towns, villages and cities within a borough territory carried the same first two letters.

The point is that the hoteliers around Yugoslavia wanted to give to a family arriving in a Mercedes SL three overnights for free expecting that with their other consumption they'll easily make up for that while at the same time pushing up the prestige of the hotel. The hoteliers were interested to see that they were to be for sure advertised for free in the Netherlands while it was not certain that any of the Audi or Mercedes owners would actually show up for a free overnight.

The Yugoslav National Tourist Office, YNTO, in Amsterdam (with an advertising budget of about 2,2 million gulden or €1 m.) would be heavily supporting a project aimed at uplifting the customer base while enticing the 5 million car-owners in the Netherlands learn more about holidaying opportunities in the foreign currency starving country.

Some of the dealers of foreign up market models showed immediate interess in having exclusive rights on the promotion and the whole campaign because they had seen it as a chance to be associated with a friendly country and one of the top 5 tourist destinations in Europe. They have seen it as instantaneous possibility to push up the value of their cars with specific registration plates.

The project, therefore, was a topper, in theory, from it very conception. It was designed to be a piece of cake for execution: the production (copy, layout and printing of some 150,000 copies) of the main vehicle of the project, the Auto-newspaper Yugoslavia, was relatively inexpensive. The only problem would be the response and the legal validity of the contracts with the individual hotels for free accommodation. But then, the YNTO was to jump in and push the project.

Advic B.V. the advertising firm of my dear friend Victor Smit, would be the sole owner of the project and would charge, modestly, all participating parties in it. We have begun work. Hundreds of special A3 cardboard envelopes were bought, postage, mock-up copies of the Auto-newspaper Yugoslavia inn full color printed and sent out out to hoteliers and borough councils, local tourist associations and so forth.

And then came the storm over Yugoslavia.
Not only regions cities against cities rose up, atrocities, shelling of resorts.
An awful, beastly civil war had begun raging across one of the most idilic parts of Europe.
That was it.
Now I keep the memory of this project and one mock-up copy of the newspaper that was to transform the Yugoslav tourist presence on the Dutch market.
And the lingering warmth of the enthusiastic support extended by Victor Smit for this project.
That is the the force of destiny.

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