No, we’re not talking NFC, we’re talking about the 60,000 mobile industry grunts who spend a week in the Catalan capital every February – them and their big fat expense accounts. Of course it’s the Mobile World Congress, and the fear that the organisers may just move it to another city. Guy Daniels reports.
With the mobile sector showing no signs of succumbing to a double-dip recession, what with attendances at MWC reportedly at an all-time high of over 60,000 this year, the event is big business for the host city – although for the first couple of years it was there you would be forgiven for thinking the opposite, what with the scarcity of hotels, taxis and venue food, and an over-abundance of petty crime. But, fair’s fair, the situation has improved considerably of late. However, is it too late?
Having issued a request for candidate host cities from 2013 to 2017, the GSMA – organisers of the money-making machine that is MWC – has whittled the list down to just four. Current host Barcelona is joined by Paris (outsider), Milan (worth a punt but still un-fancied) and Munich (roll up, place your bets!). To complicate matters, the GSMA, in a moment of gravity-defying egoism, decided to expand the already massive trade show and require that the host city become a “Mobile World Capital” complete with permanent exhibition and all-round festivities. Don’t they know the rest of the world is a little bit strapped for cash at the moment?
Well, that’s the current situation, and we are promised that a winner will be announced in the middle of this year. And so today sleepy Barcelona has awoken and decided to publicise its bid, and appointed Weber Shandwick PR to spread the word.
And the word, or rather phrase, is the rather perplexing “Do it in Barcelona”… Do what? Maybe it works better in Catalan (“fer a Barcelona” says my Google translate software)? Anyway, the city’s mayor was delighted with last month’s attendance of “mobile talent” in the “Mediterranean metropolis” (but surely it was Barcelona, Ed?). Here’s what Jordi Hereu i Boher, Mayor of Barcelona, had to say in today’s press release:
“Barcelona is attractive to international talent, business and entrepreneurship. It is a creative and innovative city that has consolidated mobile technology as a new economy opportunity and a democratic urban tool. Barcelona loves being mobile!"
The mayor’s enthusiasm for all things mobile is backed up by the PR heavyweights at Weber Shandwick. They remind us that “Barcelona has a track record of innovating and adapting the city to new challenges, be it on the occasion of the 1992 Olympic Games or the urban renewal processes that led Barcelona to become Europe's fifth best city for business”. They also point to the ‘Do it in Barcelona’ initiative, which was established in 2009 to provide support for entrepreneurs – especially those from overseas who wish to relocate.
“DO IT IN BARCELONA [their capitals, not ours, it’s obviously a subtle form of marketing perfected by Weber Shandwick] is a comprehensive city programme aimed at attracting global entrepreneurship, creative and innovative human capital as well as added-value activity to Barcelona. As an international entry hub for skilled people wishing to carry out added-value activities in Barcelona, DO IT IN BARCELONA features an own landing services portfolio and exploits synergies by distributing the incoming talent to existing services.”
We’re not sure exactly what is an “own landing services portfolio” (and neither is Google) but we’re sure it must be pretty impressive. Stakeholders in the initiative include the Fira de Barcelona (the venue for MWC), Barcelona Turisme and Barcelona Hotel Association. The city rightly maintains that running the GSMA’s proposed Mobile World City is going to take a huge amount of effort and expertise.
Here’s what the GSMA wants:
In addition to the World Congress there will be a ‘Mobile World Centre’, which will include “technology exhibits, museum features, a retail area, a mobile café, office space and more.” Then there’s the ‘Mobile World Festival’, which will comprise of “a range of festivities that will be targeted to the general public and will take place separate from the Mobile World Congress (and) will incorporate mobile-driven festivities including concerts, music and movie festivals, application competitions and awards, and dialogues and debates, among others.”
Thinking big then.
Anybody remember the great old ITU Telecom events of yore? Back in the early 90s, the events lasted for over a week. Telecom 91 and Telecom 95 were each nine days long! Hey, GSMA, think of the extra money you could make by extending MWC to nine days… And while you’re about it, how about some openness regarding where the money goes? The Development Fund is always crying poverty, so where are you putting all the cash? You ever heard of WikiLeaks? Word is that online whistleblowing / freedom of information, call it what you will, is coming to big corporates next… Come on, open up, there’s obviously nothing to hide…
By the way, did we mention Weber Shandwick? The city of Barcelona is using them to support its bid application to the GSMA. Could it possibly be the same Weber Shandwick that the GSMA appointed in January to act as its global PR firm? Surely some mistake…? Maybe we had better revisit the betting odds for the city finalists? And did we mention openness?
UPDATED: 2 March 2011
Weber Shandwick phoned to clarify their position regards the Barcelona campaign and the GSMA account, wishing to make clear that there is no connection here. They say that the press release for 'Do It In Barcelona' in no way constitutes lobbying for Mobile Capital of the Year. Here's their statement:
"Weber Shandwick does not represent the city of Barcelona's bid to be Mobile World Capital and it would clearly be inappropriate to do so. Weber Shandwick represents Do It in Barcelona (www.doitinbcn.com), a longstanding campaign to attract talented professionals, entrepreneurs, researchers and students to live and work in Barcelona. This is a different and distinct campaign with different communications objectives, different audiences and different media targets."
TelecomTV, for our part, would like to point out our thnking behind this story. The press release was the first one we have ever received from the 'Do It in Barcelona' team, as it's not really our area of interest, and it was received by all of our journalists – all those that attended MWC (there is no indication where the mailing list came from, and we are not saying that it is the MWC press list, let's be clear). However, it did link (deliberately or inadvertently?) the success of MWC 2011 with 'Do It in Barcelona' and obliquely referenced the tender for Mobile World Capital – it's right there in the first paragraph:
"As a finalist to become Mobile World Capital, Barcelona throws in its experience in hosting the GSMA Mobile World Congress."
We also used another quote in our story above, but decided against using the preceding line. So here it is again, now in full context, straight from the press release:
"The transformation of an entire city into a mobile-enabled venue is a challenge few cities can answer. Barcelona has a track record of innovating and adapting the city to new challenges..."
So you decide. Was there a connection, and if so, was it accidental? Meanwhile, we are happy to set the record straight that Weber Shandwick does not represent the city of Barcelona's bid to be Mobile World Capital.
Oh, the GSMA also phoned us with comments, but they wanted the conversation kept off the record...
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