Quebec ad agency creates Facebook page to counter ‘Montreal-bashing’

The City of Montreal has taken its share of licks over the past year.

There were the student protests that clogged the city streets;there were the stories of mafia hits and gang wars; there was the provincial election and talk about separation; and now there's the Charbonneau Commission providing daily fodder about the corrupt happenings at City Hall.

That's enough 'negative' to give a city an inferiority complex.

According to an article in the Montreal Gazette, that's exactly what's happening.

Kbs+p, a Montreal-based advertising company, has taken the unprecedented step of taking out a full-page ad in La Presse and designing a Facebook page so Montrealers can declare they still "like" the city.

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"My colleagues in Toronto were asking: 'What's wrong with your city these days?,'" Mario Daigle, the company's president told the Gazette.

"Montreal is such a beautiful city, but there seems to be a lot of Montreal-bashing going on. The media, the political class, everybody is talking about it ... and it is creating a very negative perception of Montreal's image."

Daigle's Facebook page includes the following caption:

"Montreal is at the crossroads: corruption, organized crime and street protests make headlines. Like Montreal? Click Like if you refuse to resign."

The successful ad executive, however, might just be a little overly-sensitive on this issue.

Certainly he's allowed to be concerned about the city's lucrative tourism industry which attracts 19.2 million visitors each year.

But according to a recent article in La Presse, the tourism industry is doing just fine.

William Brown of the Hotel Association of Montreal told the French-language newspaper that  July's occupancy rates were about 10 per cent lower than in 2011.  He blamed the Spring-time student protests - the time of year most tourists make their summer travel plans. Conversely, June and July had higher occupancy rates than normal.

And, in an interview with CBC Montreal last week, Brown said that tourism is holding steady this Fall and Winter.

The "Montreal-bashing" is also having little affect on the business community, at least according to Michel Leblanc of the Montreal Board of Trade.

"Clearly we are cleaning-up [after the corruption in the construction industry] and that's a positive aspect," he told CBC.

"We suspect that over the next years the processes will be transparent and probably they'll be a willingness to reassure the public that is everything is done very well and everything is done by the book."

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CBC Montreal's  Joanne Vrakas suggests that Montreal's image problem is primarily a localized one.

"There's some real concern about Montreal's image, but in talking to the insiders people who work in tourism, people in the hotel [industry] and the tourists themselves - what's clear I think is that the people who have the worst impression of Montreal is Montrealers," she said.