C’villeization: Proposed ad campaign draws complaints

The latest iteration of a rebranding campaign to draw visitors to the area was better received than an earlier one, but its use of “C’villeization” still makes some local officials squeamish.

Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau The latest iteration of a rebranding campaign to draw visitors to the area was better received than an earlier one, but its use of “C’villeization” still makes some local officials squeamish. Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau

The word “civility” has become a bad word among some Charlottesvillians. Now a proposed tourism ad campaign touting “C’villeization” as a play on the C’ville nickname is also drawing fire.

Chapel Hill-based ad company Clean presented mock-ups of its “Welcome to C’villeization” rebranding campaign at a December 20 tourism board meeting. The ads feature images of attractive people eating local food, having a good time, and, in one, clinking wine glasses with the text, “C’villeization welcomes spitting. In the right context.”

Mayor Nikuyah Walker, who is not on the tourism board, is not a fan. She posted on Facebook, “This makes me so sad. This logo is unacceptable. Be Better! Do Better!” Walker did not respond to a request from C-VILLE for comment.

Supervisor Ann Mallek, a county representative on the board, says, “I’m not a tourism expert. I do know what stuck up and arrogant look like.”

And by “stuck up” and “arrogant,” she means “anybody who claims to be the center of civilization.”

At an October meeting, Clean learned that civility was not going to fly. At the December meeting, Interim City Manager Mike Murphy was wary of “C’villeization” and “C’villeized,” as well. “It’s still too close for me,” he said.

Councilor Kathy Galvin said, “C’villeization is a problem.”

And Councilor Mike Signer, the city’s alternate member, liked going with “C’ville” sans the play on civilization.

Despite those reactions, Adam Healey, the visitors bureau interim director, said the C’villeization campaign had gotten “highly positive” feedback. He proposed it for an ad campaign targeting 25- to 44-year-olds, dubbed “refined roamers,” in the Washington, D.C., and Research Triangle Park area in North Carolina. “The goal is to increase short getaways,” he said.

After Walker’s Facebook post, which Healey says he hasn’t seen, he says, “We have to understand our objective. We’re trying to draw visitors. We’re not on a social mission. We’re on an economic mission.”

Albemarle Economic Development Director Roger Johnson, who was elected chair of the reconfigured tourism executive board, says the C’villeization presentation “was definitely better received than the initial one.”

The visitors bureau board has gone through major turnover the past year, and will now include two elected officials from the city and county on its executive board.

That change was spearheaded by Mallek, who says, “For 11 years I was concerned the county was not getting the service it deserved for its million dollars.” Before, the county sent a staff member, who was one of 11 board members and was consistently in the minority when the county’s wish list was voted on, according to Mallek.

Those at the December 21 meeting approved a 14-member board, with two elected officials each from Albemarle and Charlottesville, four city and county administrators, a UVA vice president, reps from the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns Monticello, and the Chamber of Commerce, two tourism industry members, and one representative from the arts community.

The size of the board drew some concerns. Signer favored a “nimble” decision-making group like the seven-member Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority Board. And Johnson said, “The larger we make this group, the harder it is to make decisions.”

Both the government officials and tourism representatives wanted more people with expertise from the tourism industry on the board.

The Board of Supervisors and City Council will vote on the changes to the board in January. As for the ad campaign, that will come back to the tourism board. Says Healey, “We’re going to incorporate feedback.”