EDMONTON — At least they weren’t pictures of dusty cowboys hoisting pints.
From Calgary-upon-Bow to Edmonton-on-the-North-Saskatchewan, Alberta is being mocked across Britain because the government used a picture from northern England in a $25-million campaign to promote the province’s natural glory.
The BBC, The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph reported on “red-faced” officials reacting to criticism of Alberta’s ad campaign, which depicts smiling sweater-clad blond kids running along a beach.
It was a beach that the government admitted this week is not in Alberta at all. It is actually Bamburgh Beach in Northumberland — home of the castle of the mythical round-tabling knight Lancelot.
The BBC ran comparisons between the two regions, noting that Northumberland is famous for clog dancing while Alberta is known for “rodeo festivals.”
The Daily Telegraph pointed out that while both areas rely on tourism, visitors to Northumberland enjoy temperate weather, while Alberta’s climate can swing wildly from 40C in summer to -54C in winter.
In Alberta, mayors of small towns with beautiful beaches have demanded to know why their communities were edged out in favour of an English photo.
“It’s baffling why they missed the beauty of our beaches in Alberta. It’s an outdoor playground. There’s lots to promote here,” said Karina Pillay-Kinnee, mayor of Slave Lake, 250 km north of Edmonton.
She said Slave Lake has campgrounds, white sandy beaches, world-class walleye fishing, quadding and snowmobiling.
“I think they’ve got the message,” she said Friday. “It was a mistake and I’m sure they’ll be encouraged to promote our beaches in the future — and in the big picture there are other things that need more attention.”
The ad flap took off after private citizen Peter Bailey — enraptured by the photo — badgered the provincial government with emails for weeks until they told him the beach was not in Alberta.
Tom Olsen, spokesman for Premier Ed Stelmach, said Thursday that the photo fit the “mood and tone” of the promotion and there was no attempt to mislead or pass it off as a picture of Alberta.
Later in the day, however, the government admitted on a blogsite that it was a “screw-up.”
The province has pulled the photo from most of its campaign but is keeping it in the promotional video to give the online movie a global focus.
The public relations firm that handled the ad contract, Calder Bateman, has declined comment, citing privacy reasons.