Remembering when Edinburgh banned Glasgow’s Mr Happy ad campaign

Glasgow’s Mr Happy and his positive logo didn’t go down well with everyone.

The Glasgow’s Miles Better was a 1980s campaign to promote the city of Glasgow as a tourist destination and as a location for industry. The campaign became very well known thanks to its logo - childrens’ book character Mr Happy.

In the 70s, industry had declined in Glasgow as had the population, and a fresh new approach was needed to boost Glasgow’s appeal. Advertising executive John Struthers was brought in to create an advertising campaign for Glasgow, and was impressed by the 1977 “I Love New York” campaign with its heart symbol, and wanted to do something similar for the city.

Professor Stephen Ward who has written widely about the way in which cities can improve their images said of Glasgow’s Miles Better campaign: “Glasgow’s lord provost and the advertising executive John Struthers had been impressed by the 1977 "I Love New York" campaign with its heart symbol, and wanted to do something similar for the Scottish city.

"Struthers realised it was a good idea to get something like that - a very recognisable figure that people could smile at - into the slogan," he said.

"It was a case of ringing up Roger Hargreaves, the creator of the character, and Mr Happy became an honorary Glaswegian."

The campaign was so successful that it was launched nationwide in 1984 but not everyone was keen on it.

As reported on BBC’s Reporting Scotland in 1985, Edinburgh District Council banned the famous ad from its buses during the festival that summer. It was proposed that the Glasgow’s Miles Better campaign would be on Edinburgh buses in various different languages. But this was banned by Edinburgh council in a move that was described as astonishing at the time.

In an interview on a report shown on the BBC, Edinburgh’s Ian Crammond said: “We’re very conversative, with a small c, in Edinburgh. We’re the polite people of Scotland. Glasgow is maybe the gallus people but we are the polite people and never like controversy at all.”

While Glasgow’s Lord Provost, Robert Gray responded: “It must have taken a brainstorm to start this degree of controversy over this situation. There was never any intention for controversy. It was a genuine attempt to advertise in Edinburgh during the time the tourists were there. The advert was to be carried in four seperate languages. All I can say to Ian Crammond is thank you very much because I couldn’t have paid for the advertising that he’s given me today.”