Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What applies in Denver applies here

If you're a regular reader of JITD, you know that I like the Denver Egoist blog. Always some good stuff on there. I don't know who does it, but in addition to being how I came across my friend Larry Hinkle, I think they do a terrific job.

This pos
t in particular is one I think can apply here in Washington.

First some setup: A few years ago, I was (accidentally, I'm sure) invited to a meeting of local agency owner-types. The reason for the meeting was to discuss how to raise the visibility of advertising in Washington and keep more local clients in town. (Apparently, there was an infamous "accounts in review" list in Adweek that included several multi-million-dollar area accounts and not a single local agency was a finalist. Word was the managing director/chief pooh-bah of the local branch of a big agency was reamed out pretty good, which explained his sudden desire to raise the awareness of all of us. But that's just gossip, so who knows?)

The question was posed, how do we keep more accounts in town and make this a better advertising town? I raised my hand and suggested that perhaps we ought to do better work. Well, I was more or less shouted down and never invited back. Which was OK with me, because the result of this effort was to plan -- but never mount -- an exhibit of some sort. As a group they sat there and told themselves that we all did fabulous work. As good as any in the country. What's the name of that river in Egypt?

Sure, this was a few years ago, but advertising could be better in DC than it is. And I'm not convinced that as an advertising community, we're really doing anything about it. I don't see a real effort to bring on a higher standard of creativity that can be, as my friend Chris says, a rising tide that floats all boats.

I'm not saying N+H does fabulous work all the time. I wish we did, and we try to. I'm also not saying that nobody does good work here. MDB has come on recently, and their new DC Lottery campaign is one of the best I've seen for a lottery account. The Design Army does good design, and Arnold does great work too.

But if you thumb through CA, The One Show, Graphis and on and on, you don't see a lot of local zip codes. That's just the fact. As a community, we could stand to have better work across the board.

So anyway, back to the Denver Egoist, this is what Felix (the writer) said in part, and I think it applies here. "Denver has the ability to produce some quality work, but we must set the bar higher than Denver. As a city, we don’t have a steady stream of amazing work to measure our own creativity against. We must look to the best of the best of the best as our mentors. Only then will Denver have a chance of one day being one of those cities that can be called a creative hot spot without a sense of irony or sarcasm. Dream big."

Every creative person in Washington ought to remember those words. There are some tremendously talented people here. Joel Mooy, Lisa Biskin, Woody Kay, Shirley Fee Tibbets, Jeff McElhaney, Jake and Pum LeFebure come to mind, among others.

I think there are only two real roadblocks to this being a top-drawer ad town: 1) pretending there is no room for improvement and 2) not being willing to do something about it.

(Author's note: I had a little trouble coming up with art for this post. So just in case you're wondering, there is absolutely no good reason on the face of the earth for the photo at the top being there. Not a one.)

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