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Editorial: excellent idea aimed amiss

Vene turistid Balti jaamas eelmisel aastavahetusel. PHOTO: Raigo Pajula

Last week-end saw removal from Internet of Matryoshka-ads by Enterprise Estonia, supposedly showing the country off as a wonderful tourism destination for people from Russia. Reason for removal was displeasure at the ad, in which viewers failed to see advancement for Estonian tourism – nor an acceptable attitude towards inhabitants of Russia. And rightly so: the way the wooden dolls were treated, in the ads, revealed no respect of another culture; nor did it leave viewers with the impression of us having much to offer... except for xenophobia.

Negative reactions were not limited to locals. The noisy coterie of Matryoshkas featured in the ads, a nuisance and a bother to staff at tourism and catering companies, also irritated people in Russia – the very ones the clips were supposed to attract.  

As explained by Enterprise Estonia, they intentionally took a somewhat untraditional approach, targeting the younger audience – the new generation of Russians perhaps better addressed by a less conservative solution, as opposed to the traditional destination country clip. Even so, no matter the language, culture and tradition – there still exists the quite universal understanding as perceived by anyone: ridiculing and rejecting the foreigner is difficult indeed to be interpreted as warm welcome. Be the target group as open-minded as ever. 

Thus – we’ve got no clips. What we have, however, is an ads bill close to €28,000.

True: as claimed by Enterprise Estonia itself, even the short-lived exposure of clips proved a success in Russia – allegedly, Facebook fans at have tripled; the campaign game participated by nearly 230,000 people. But, as always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Any positive impact of the campaign would only be shown in amounts of tourists setting feet on Estonian soil. The negative impact, however, is immediate and prompt over social media.

The trouble with the Matryoshka-ads is absence of a principal idea, some say. Rather, why not claim the opposite: the ad has an exceedingly strong idea, carried out to the max. It would have made an excellent ad indeed... had it come under category of social advertisement exposing the hardships faced by strangers in foreign cultures – due to entrenched prejudice. And that not limited to Estonia alone: easy indeed to feel alien, anywhere on Earth. And, in part, tourism is meant to relieve that.

So, the ads blundered in ways pretty plain: clip-makers simply missed the aim of the endeavour. An error so grave and glaring should surely have been detected, by Enterprise Estonia, before approving the job.