On Tuesday, a film about the Milton Hershey School was screened at Tribeca Cinema. The director Cynthia Wade and the producing agency ArnoldNYC walked a fine line with their closed wall client to come up with a documentary that would be both compelling and serve the clients' needs. Together, they solved a big problem. They stretched a thin budget, recast client suggestions, and took cameras outside the school walls. Trust and vision let the film meet its mark.
In Detroit, an even bigger problem needs to be solved: “America’s most struggling city needs to attract business and talent.” To help, Time Inc. invited agencies with Detroit offices to develop campaigns to encourage young and creative people to consider Detroit as a place to live and work. The result? Pretty conventional. Yet, no barriers were placed on the agencies. With skies wide open, why hold back? Has the nature of advertising in general become to create: oatmeal?
Think about it. The problem with Detroit is an American problem, not a regional one. We've been quick to let our cities sink into the sea once they're tarnished. What makes cities work is intensity. To revive their spirit means to conjure up that intensity.
In Detroit, you have a city that once sold its soul to the auto companies. It couldn't hold onto many of its own. Consider Detroit's Class of 1984. scenarioDNA's own Tim Stock (aUniversity of Detroit high school grad), Majesty Crush's Odell Nails (now a lawyer and with Mahogany in NYC), Philly artist Michael Frechette, NY film maker John Walter who cut his teeth in Detroit on Evil Dead II with Sam Raimi's Renaissance Pictures and Mark Crilley creator of Akiko who went around the world before choosing to settle in an outlying Michigan city, not Detroit. Has anyone ever thought to ask them why they left and how to strengthen bonds to bring them (or those like them) back?
Powerful stories exist within the city, as well as among all the ex-pat Detroiters, who never dress the city down while the rest of us sweep where we come from under the rug. Now that's compelling. There is a dialog to leverage from those ex-pats to those living and breathing within the city limits.
Detroit is a narrative that extends beyond the city and its suburbs. It lives in New York. It lives in Arizona. It lives in LA. It lives in Philly.
Sadly, unimaginative thinking among those charged with pushing the message of Detroit will further erase the troubled city from the states if we don't all pull together. To bring the city back to its glory, all the narrative threads need to be identified, organized and brought together. We can't get bogged down by politeness and mired in consensus. Don't erase Detroit. Tweet your Detroit stories with the hashtag #erasedetroit. (Photo: Abandoned house by smooveb)
I've got a question. Why are all of us enlightened social media/Web 2.0 gurus picking on David Ogilvy lately? More than once during yesterday's Business Development Institute conference on The Social Consumer, David's name was brought up in "then vs. now" scenarios. Yet, in 1962, Time called him "the most sought-after wizard in today's advertising industry." (Maybe David Ogilvy did preach to a gullible public, but at least it was interesting and compelling.)
For sure, now we need to connect; we need to listen; we need to -- ENGAGE (there's that word again). But we also need: the wizards, the curators, the maverick renegades to lead the way. Inspiration never comes by consensus.
Perhaps, Ogilvy's now seemingly heavy-handed method worked then because he knew how to hear without the spiffy tools we have helping us today. I think we're losing sight of the dynamic combination necessary which is ever-more critical now that the gullible war-trodden consumer is gone.
Years ago, I worked for a brilliant editor by the name of Phyllis Sweed (although I don't think at the time I appreciated exactly how brilliant she was). When Ms. Sweed was asked by our publisher to survey our readers to ask what they wanted. Her response was "They don't know what they want." And, as publishers do, he persisted and money was spent to discover that the readers didn't really know what they wanted. In fact, it was more powerful that Ms. Sweed and her crew had developed long-standing relationships meeting and hearing their readers. And always posing the question "What if we did this?" That's what gets a b2b print publication closer to its 100th year.
So let's promise each other that there's always something more inspiring, more provocative to be accepted if it just gets pushed a bit. And stop using David Ogilvy as a scape goat. The man worked for the British Intelligence Service for heaven sake's. I'd assume he knew how to listen first before he slammed it home.
We're launching our position statement on the Transformer Generation. The gist is this:
For the kids who played with Transformers twenty-odd years ago, the story has fluidly evolved into a tale of open-source collaboration, new globalism, a currency of culture, eBay economics and mash-up. In this new narrative, the impact of technology blurs the lines from urban/suburban and east/west making cultural context more critical now than ever before. The Transformer Generation is a game changer. They won’t become us. They’ll change us.