Enterprise Estonia, the state tourism and entrepreneurship support agency, has pulled an online campaign for the Russian market following criticism that it was not appropriate in the way it depicted either Russian Federation tourists or Estonia.
The Russian-language campaign, developed by the DDB and Nafta ad agencies, had the tagline "You and 75 friends to Estonia," and depicted Russian Federation tourists as a noisy group of Russian dolls who descend on Tallinn. The tagline referred to the prize in a drawing with partner Estonian Air.
"Based on the feedback we received, we decided to take a time out to see whether the initial expectations were met and to assess what part of the criticism was constructive and whether the message needs to be adjusted," said a spokesman for Enterprise Estonia (EAS), Jürg Samel.
On some levels, the ads were successful, going viral on social media. The budget was 28,000 euros. Posted on visitestonia.com, the EAS tourist-oriented site, the clips have now been pulled.
The key criticism came in an article by Der Tank's project manager Veronika Pekurina, who said she was writing as an Estonian Russian working for a top ad agency.
"The matrioshki sit at a table, drink, party in hotel room. Are we promoting sex tourism? Is this all [Estonia] has to offer tourists?" she wrote on November 21.
"I have a cousin in Moscow who works at a leading Moscow ad agency, and he puts it well: 'If it were an ad for one spa or hotel, it would be a joke, because it's lame. But it is an ad for a whole country, and it is too much.' People like him are in the target group for the ad."
With Russia's middle class burgeoning in recent years, Russian Federation tourists have been increasing in number in Finland and Estonia, with visits tending to peak during the winter holidays. However, the possibility of harder economic times ahead is leading ad agencies to overreach, some say.