Thursday, November 19, 2009

In Detroit, Agencies Compete to Sell City as a Creative Haven


IT may not be the advertising version of “Mission: Impossible,” but it is certainly a challenging, if not daunting, task: produce a campaign to encourage young and creative people to consider Detroit as a place to live and work.

Cue the Lalo Schifrin theme music.

The effort, called Selling Detroit, is upfront about its intent. “America’s most struggling city needs to attract business and talent,” a description of the contest begins.

The initiative to help change what may be the most dire urban image in America is being sponsored by the Time Inc. unit of Time Warner as part of a yearlong project, Assignment Detroit, that involves reporters and editors from Essence, Fortune, Money, Sports Illustrated, Time and related Web sites.

Several advertising agencies with offices in the Detroit area were asked to develop campaigns; five agreed to take part. Their work is to appear in the Dec. 7 issue of Fortune, due Nov. 23, as well as on three Web sites:, and (The value of the ad pages that Time Inc. is devoting to the contest in Fortune is estimated at $400,000.)

Visitors to the Web sites will be able to vote, beginning on Monday, for their favorite among the five campaigns. The winner is to be announced on Dec. 2, during an annual awards ceremony in Detroit known as the D Show.

“The whole idea of the contest is that we believe in the renewal of the city,” said Mark Ford, president for the news group at Time Inc. in New York. This is to be accomplished partly by people moving to Detroit with their businesses and creativity, and being there “for the long haul.”

To that end, the campaign will be “targeted more to the 18-to-34-year-old demographic,” he added.

Those involved in the contest acknowledge it is a small step toward determining “what is the road out” from Detroit’s difficulties, as Mr. Ford put it.

“I don’t pretend to have the answer to solve the problem,” Mr. Ford said. “You have to expect it’ll take many, many years to recover.” More here.

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