Three short films promoting the borough as a place ripe for business investment have been hailed a major success.
While they may have made some viewers cringe, the overriding response to the quirky and innovative videos, which together cost around £15,000 to make, has been highly positive as they went viral authority chiefs said today.
The council spent £5,200 on the first film, simply called Wigan Works, before spending £5,556 on its advert featuring the Hyperbrain satellite and a feature £4,910 on a video about the fortune-teller Zoltar.
The latter two in particular marked a distinct depature from the way councils normally seek to market themselves.
Hyperbrain showed an super-intelligent computer scouring the planet for suitable business locations before fixing on Wigan, while the other showed seer Zoltar contemplating a dystopian future before realising he was staring into the wrong crystal ball and declaring Wigan has a plan for the future.
The council has strongly backed the use of taxpayers’ money on the films, saying it has received overwhelmingly good feedback and it is vital to promote the borough as a good place in which to invest.
Emma Barton, assistant director for economic development, said: “Wigan Works has received praise from national and international publishers and creative houses for its unique and original approach to marketing a local authority area to businesses.
“Since the Wigan Works strategy was launched in 2014 inward investment enquiries have increased as awareness of the business opportunities in Wigan borough grows.
“As well as achieving hundreds of thousands of digital views the videos have also been shown at major business conferences including at MIPIM UK.
“This successful viral video approach fits in with the council’s digital agenda and is more cost effective in achieving a greater reach and impact than traditional advertising methods.
“Furthermore, our borough survey shows that 92 per cent of residents are supportive of this approach. It also serves to help challenge perceptions of Wigan and showcases our unique sense of humour, setting us apart from other areas.
“Ultimately the rewards of achieving greater inward investment far outweigh the initial cost of spreading the word about what Wigan has to offer.
“For example, attracting one major new business operator to the borough will result in a business rate income of hundreds of thousands of pounds annually. This income is crucial in maintaining key council services as we become more dependent on business rates to fund services.
“It’s also key to opening up skilled job opportunities for the people of Wigan. Wigan is open for business and ready for investment.”
The videos gained plenty of praise when they were placed on Youtube and linked on social media, with local government employees across the country saying they thought other councils should try similar marketing strategies.
But some residents thought certain aspects, such as showing Hyperbrain wearing a flat cap, reinforced negative stereotypes of the borough. To view the films, search for Wigan Council’s account at www.youtube.com