By the way, it’s not the Bucharest Business Journal, either…


We’re not exactly certain whether a historical locale should be advertised as *not* another, but the “Bucharest Not Budapest” campaign certainly gets high marks for cleverness – and the ultimate goal of attracting international attention and commendation from ad agency peers seems to be working quite well, too.

In a campaign now reaching as far as, well, Budapest, US-based advertising agency McCann is pushing the Romanian candy bar ROM by launching a full-on assault on the confusion from which everyone from Michael Jackson to 400 Spanish football fans have suffered regarding the two Central European cities. With signs, T-shirts, ads on city buses and a seriously funny website emblazoned in the familiar blue-red-yellow tri-color, McCann and ROM seek to remind folks of the difference.  

Well worth a look is, a fantastic website chronicling the campaign’s progress through Romania in three languages: English, Romanian and, yes, Hungarian. Alongside this are tongue-in-cheek complaints that pop stars such as Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, Whitesnake and Morcheeba have made a Wikipedia-free habit of calling out “Helloooooo Budapest!” in the Romanian city and helpful tutorials on locating Bucharest on a map.  

The website includes such hilarity as the “Gallery of Mistakes,” wherein it is noted that “We’re ranked [fifth among] the top geographical confusions” (one wonders what the other four are…) and an app which provides the expression “not Budapest” to every mention of Bucharest a web surfer may run across. 

And perhaps the most eye-catching of the wide-ranging campaign are ROM’s direct appeal to Bruce Dickinson, whose band Iron Maiden played Budapest Bucharest in late July, and a sign nearby Liszt Ferenc International Airport – the latter despite the fact that ROM is not available for purchase anywhere in Budapest.  

It remains to be seen whether sales of ROM will increase, but McCann is certainly likely to claim another feather in its cap for yet another memorable ad campaign. Those Americans old enough will recall McCann’s work of the past, including the “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” television commercials for Coca-Cola of 1972, the Rice-a-Roni jingle (a.k.a. “The San Francisco treat”) of the 1970s and the much-memed “Priceless” ads of MasterCard. The agency was even contracted by Spanish dictator Gen. Francisco Franco for some image improvement.

McCann may also boast a threepeat of Ad Week’s Global Agency of the Year awards, taking that prize in Cannes in 1998, 1999 and 2000. We have to believe the agency’s in the running for 2014 as well.  

Incidentally, going back to the original problem, i.e. that neverending confusion; perhaps Budapest could solve the conundrum by reverting back to the name by which the city was sometimes referred in the early 19th century: Pest-Buda. No…? 

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