harry diamond's memoir


can you get me into the papersJohn Struthers, a Glasgow advertising man, and his 14-year-old son Mark were doodling, John's own word, on sheets of paper on a flight to London trying to devise a campaign slogan for their native city.

Page after page was discarded as they wrote things like GLASGOW TOPS FOR YOU, GET TO KNOW GLASGOW, GROW WITH GLASGOW, THE GLASGOW SMILE. They still hadn't quite got it when they got to London. Then on a train from the airport to the centre of the city John wrote GLASGOW'S MILES BETTER. When they got home that night they substituted a smiling face for the letter O. And so was born the slogan that swept the world.

Struthers took his idea to Lord Provost Michael Kelly, who had the wit and foresight to see its possibilities. He persuaded the city council to put up £150,000 towards a full-scale promotional campaign for the city. The business community put up £200,000. Kelly persuaded business leaders that what was good for Glasgow was good for them and their businesses, too. After all, if a lot more people were attracted to the city because of the things they read they would obviously spend money there.

The Glasgow's Miles Better campaign, which started in 1983, was one of the best promotions ever mounted by a British city. It won the International Film and Television Festival of New York award in 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1987. "The only reason we didn't win in l986 is because we didn't enter the festival," says Struthers.

Struthers devised a series of advertisements based on the things we had been publicising over the years, the city's international hotels, museums, parks, restaurants, sporting facilities, Then came badges, car stickers, umbrellas, tee-shirts, and plastic carrier bags, all carrying the miles better slogan.

The slogan, advertisements and promotional items were first-class, but one other ingredient was necessary to make the campaign the success it was - editorial publicity. And this is where my department came in. We injected the miles better theme into almost every story that came out of my office, and many of these stories were published and broadcast internationally.

Even the running, jumping and falling events organised by the parks and recreation department were miles better than anyone else's. The newspaper headline writers also made everything to do with Glasgow miles better. Well...nearly everthing.

All my international news media contacts gratifyingly took up the miles better story. In addition, radio stations in America, Canada and Australia which regularly catered for people of Scots descent with 'Scottish Hour' programmes were all given up-to-date news about what was happening in Glasgow. That gave us millions of dollars worth of publicity for the cost of the stamps for the press releases.

Before that the programmes had relied mainly on people in Scotland occasionally to send them newspapers from which they gleaned most of their news. Incidentally, during our Californian adventure in 1981 I was astonished at the number of people who regularly put on full Highland dress, organised ceilidhs, and drank enormous amounts of whisky. Many of them had never been anywhere near Scotland and had no intention of going there. They were very good hosts, though!

Two young men, Roger Laing, a lawyer, and David Haig, a scientist, came in one day to tell me they intended to fly to America and back in a single-engined Cessna 210 aircraft to raise money for cancer research.

They said they would like to promote the city, too, so I gave them mountains of car stickers and other items and even arranged for their aircraft to use the call sign Glasgow One. Their flight took in Iceland, Greenland, Baffen Island (in the Canadian North-Western Territories) Boston and Chicago because an aircraft of that size obviously couldn't fly across the Atlantic.

I sent a story about their flight and its purpose to news media everywhere they touched down and they gave out the promotional material. The two young flyers were made a tremendous fuss of in the United States and in fact flew to quite a number of places not on their flight schedules. The result in publicity terms for Glasgow was incalculable.

My younger son Michael distributed miles better material, including tee-shirts, in the Negev desert of Israel where he worked and my older son Harvie and his Brazilian-born wife Rejane gave out stickers and tee-shirts when they went to Rio de Janeiro on holiday with their children.

Bob Reid, a planning officer, used up two years' leave to go on a six-week expedition to the Himalayas where he and a friend, Edward Farmer, were the first climbers to conquer a 21,000ft mountain. They wore Glasgow's Miles Better sweatshirts, among other things, for the climb and planted a miles better flag at the peak.

No opportunity to spread the word was overlooked. Holidaymakers flying out of Glasgow Airport had the miles better stickers on their luggage in a variety of languages. People like Jimmy Saville and Lulu were recruited for promotions by council departments. Even the Queen was pictured with Michael Kelly under a miles better umbrella.

When two young girls from Italy had their cameras stolen the boss of a camera shop read about the theft and gave the girls new cameras and film. When the newspapers reported the incident they quoted the girls as saying Glasgow was miles better because they had been so well treated there.

At one point John Struthers devised a miles better advertisement to put on Edinburgh buses during the Edinburgh Festival but we were refused permission by the city's transport authority. We had planned to spend about £2000 on this exercise but the transport authority's refusal was reported world-wide and we received millions of pounds worth of publicity for nothing. I was even quoted on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, one of the most influential newspapers in the United States.

In March 1984 Michael Kelly launched the campaign nationally with a breakfast in the Savoy Hotel in London hosted by Britoil. The list of guests from every walk of life was enormous. One of them was Billy Connolly. Mr Connolly was being what he considered amusing for the benefit of the crowd in a reception area when I approached him quietly at Michael Kelly's request and stopped a few feet away. I waited until he acknowledged my existence by looking in my direction and said, "Would you mind taking your place at the top table Mr Connolly so that we can get started."

Mr Connolly looked me up and down and said in a voice that carried to Carlisle, "Whooo are yoooo? F... off." A few self-conscious titters broke out at this brilliant riposte. Mr Connolly had obviously been misled by my immaculate appearance. I put my hand under his armpit, assisted him to a nearby wall, and whispered in his ear in the idiom which he apparently understood best, "Listen pal, ah'm a Glasgow man an' all and if you talk to me like that again I'll rip yer scruffy f......g heid aff and fling it to all yer admirers out there. Get the message, son?" Mr Connolly was taken aback, abashed and nonplussed. He went in for breakfast.

Michael Kelly would not have been pleased at my inelegant language to one of our guests. He liked to keep council officials in their place. He once rounded on me angrily when I had the impertinence to ask him for a lift back to the City Chambers from some event we had been at. A newspaper colleague who witnessed Michael's churlishness called to him, "Stuff your Rolls Royce, Michael. I'll give Harry a lift."

Michael has since become, in the minds of many of the lazier news media people, and perhaps even in his own, the ultimate authority on city image-building. He is interviewed regularly on the subject and carefully avoids contradicting any interviewer who mistakenly implies that he invented the miles better campaign and was solely responsible for telling the world about everything good that ever happened in the city.

Many people were disappointed, including John Struthers of course, when the miles better campaign ran out of steam about 1989 and was succeeded by the Glasgow's Alive slogan. David Harris, the designer who devised the "Glasgow's Alive" slogan, didn't submit it by the deadline date. He brought it to my office afterwards and I took it to Pat Lally, leader of the council, and persuaded him to allow the judging panel, of which he was chairman, to consider it along with the rest of the submissions.

After many meetings and much discussion "Glasgow's Alive" was the winner but despite a considerably amount of money spent on it in the following few years it merely limped along until a meeting of Glasgow City Council's Policy and Resources Committee on November 3, 1994 resolved to revive the Glasgow's Miles Better campaign at an initial cost of £100,000 with more to come.

The slogan's revival owes a lot to its inventor, John Struthers, who laboured mightily over the years to ensure that the slogan wasn't forgotten. Struthers claims that the original miles better campaign didn't really help him to acquire several more very lucrative clients as he already had them. Maybe, but it certainly didn't do him any harm either. Nor will its revival, especially with the scope provided by the various festivals and other activities planned by Glasgow in the years leading to the millennium..