BOGOTÁ, Colombia—”Just landed in Columbia. On my way to the hotel,” Paris Hilton tweeted last year as her plane touched down in Bogotá for the opening of one of her handbag shops.
But before she left the airport, there were scores of replies like this: “PARIS, IT’S COLOMBIA, NOT COLUMBIA!!!!” The celebrity great-granddaughter of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton soon corrected her tweet.
Big outfits including Virgin Mobile, P.F. Chang’s and Lufthansa—and performers including Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne—have all in the past year committed this boo-boo, which really annoys Colombians. They have spelled the country’s name with a “u” the way you would spell Columbia the university, or the sportswear company, or the U.S. capital, Washington, District of Columbia.
Carlos Pardo, a digital-media executive, helped create the “It’s Colombia, NOT Columbia” campaign last year at a global social media event. Initially a lighthearted presentation for Zemoga and Compass Branding, digital media and marketing firms in Bogotá, it has become a force all its own. Make the mistake on social media and you are very likely to be corrected.
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