19 Nov 2016

A history of Auckland’s slogan identity crisis

7:49 am on 19 November 2016

Another one bites the dust. Why can't Auckland come up with a decent slogan?



No caption

Photo: Unknown


Ahh Auckland. New Zealand’s most misunderstood city. Sure we’re snooty. Sure we’re smug. But we are not selfish! We are nice! We want share our glory and what better way to do that than by coming up with a decent slogan that will last the test of time.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. We are a picky bunch. Rarely have we tried one slogan before we’re onto the next. “This slogan is too racist!” cry some. “This slogan is too divorced from reality!” moan others. And so the search continues, hopes ever high that one day we will find that perfect little phrase that’s just right.

Auckland Council’s much discussed "A Place Desired by Many" is the latest stop on this quest, but unfortunately it already seems we are already packing up ready to go forth once more. What has gone wrong? Where to from here? Why can’t we find whatever it is we’re looking for?

It is said that to see where one is going one must look at where one has been and, in this spirit, I offer you my hand for a trip down Auckland slogan memory lane, in the hopes that the future can become clearer in light of the past.



A big bunch of boats.

A big bunch of boats. Photo: Unknown


From: 1985 to probably forever

There are a lot of boats in Auckland. In central Auckland anyway. And a lot of them have sails. City of Sails. You see?

Probably one of the most elitist and least accessible hobbies available, boating may only strike a chord with a lucky few but this nautical themed slogan has nevertheless remained dear to Aucklanders hearts a whopping 30 years since it was coined. It is so hardy in fact that it survived being officially dropped in 2008 and, like a marketing ghost, haunts us to this day.

For a city disproportionately populated with renters just waiting for this whole “crippling unaffordability” thing to blow over, perhaps a wildly unachievable aspirational fantasy is strangely appropriate.




Feel the pride.

Feel the pride. Photo: Luke McPake

From: 2001 - 2008

Sometimes I think about the Auckland A slogan and wonder if it really existed.

Developed by always lovely ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, Auckland A (pronounced “Auckland ayyyyyyy”) wasn’t just a slogan; it was a bizarre and ~problematic~ attempt to get down with the kids and co-opt a supposed Pacific patois (this is not speculation - in 2001 Saatchi Auckland head Mike Hutcheson told the New Zealand Herald: “This is the city with a huge Polynesian society, and we want this to mean something to people, whatever part of the city they come from”).

Complete with a very cool and chill ‘A’ shaped hand gesture to accompany it, the slogan was widely derided and hated by all. Curiously, the internet seems to have been all but wiped clean of any trace of Auckland A and I could find neither video nor poster to illustrate this dark time in our history so you are blessed with this lovely picture of yours truly representing our fine town.




From: 2008 - 2014

Launched by Heart of the City, the strangely sinister sounding Auckland merchants collective, Big Little City was a $1.8m campaign bestowed upon us in order to encourage folk to shop in the central city instead of suburban malls.  

The best part of the Big Little City campaign was the stupid advert: A twee look at the early hours of an Auckland day, an old man rides his bike through the streets, fluffy hair flying in the breeze, passing happy, busy civilians and the odd celeb, before going and unlocking a sinister giant gate that apparently surrounds the city.

All good and well but guess what this old dude is riding that bike WITHOUT A BLOODY HELMET. Outrage of course ensued and in the blink of an eye the ad was replaced with the exact same ad, this time with old father Auckland or whoever he’s meant to be wearing a possibly CGI black helmet.

Too little, too late Heart of the City. Your aiding and abetting of criminal behaviour will never be forgotten. In memory of this wonderful incident please watch the entirety of this ancient Russell Brown panel discussion on the subject.




From: 2014 - Possibly now?

Collaborating with council body ATEED, Heart of the City had another go a few years later with the less twee, but hilariously out of touch ‘The Show That Never Stops’.

Accompanied by a promotional video featuring about 95 percent restaurant footage and narrated by a gruff voiced American man who I guess just really likes Auckland, the Heart of the City and ATEED people clearly forgot to include footage of those who are routinely forced to loiter for hours in Daiso when we have dinner plans in the city after work because everything else closes between 5:30 and 8 and it’s just not worth the trouble to go all the way home and then come back.

The fate of The Show That Never Stops is uncertain - I don’t think it is in use now, but nor does it ever seem to have been explicitly canned or replaced, in a way then making it the slogan that never stops. Beautiful.



Len Brown enjoying Auckland's livability.

Len Brown enjoying Auckland's livability. Photo: Unknown

From: 2010 to 2016

Created for the Auckland Council after the election of everyone’s favourite sexy mayor, the World’s Most Liveable City slogan has been with us since 2010. Loved by all for its hilarious and charming irony, until very recently Aucklanders everywhere were cheered by this cheeky little slogan even as they huddled in their damp, uninsulated rentals, waited for trains that perhaps never existed in the first place, and watched Len Brown glide around town in his limo.




So desirable.

So desirable. Photo: Unknown


From: 2016???

Sounding more like a clue in a riddle than a marketing concept, A Place Desired By Many is the latest in this long line of slogans, blushing shyly and just hoping you’ll say yes.

Unfortunately, this is looking unlikely, and in the brief time that has passed since its announcement the slogan has been put through the op-ed wringer, faced the ire of the very reasonable Dick Quax, and now may not ever even come to pass.

Developed as part of a $500,000 project to market the city overseas, the phrase is a product of a process that involved crowdsourcing and is a translation of Tamaki Makaurau (though the accuracy of this has been called into question). Where did it go wrong?

Sadly, I do not have the answer. Many a think piece will try to tell you. Maybe they will be right? What I can tell you, however, is that we noble Aucklanders will trudge on, our brand in crisis, our identities in limbo, filling the empty voids with all the smashed avocado we can eat and in eternal wait for the day we can share our glory with the world.

Correction: A previous version of this story said 115 staff worked on the project that came up with A Place Desired By Many. ATEED says there was a project team of three and the focus of the project was to enhance Auckland's international reputation, rather than develop a slogan.