Professor Reputation: "Ok, ok, settle down, class and welcome to Image Enhancement 201. I’m Professor
Rudyard Reputation, or Prof. Rep for short.
For those of you who remained semi-conscious during the long Winter break, today’s assignment should be of interest. In fact, it may be the most challenging assignment of the entire semester, so pay attention: you’re the head of a large advertising or public relations agency. The City of Detroit’s travel & tourism bureau has just contacted you, asking for a comprehensive program to rehabilitate the Motor City’s horrific image. As you hopefully know, Detroit has become synonymous with the demise of the US economy and the media have been piling on lately with lots of doom and gloom articles.
So, you’re running the average large ad or PR agency and have lots of off-the-shelf solutions to offer. Which ones do you suggest? Yes, Ms. Rousseau."
Rousseau: "It’s actually Mr. Rousseau, Professor Rep. I underwent a transgender operation over the holidays."
Prof: "Way too much info, but please proceed Mr. Rousseau."
Rousseau: "I’d opt for the tried and true name change recommendation a la Philip Morris becoming Altria in order to distance itself from killing so many people with its cigarettes."
Prof: "Go on."
Rousseau: "So, I’m thinking we give the city a new, more positive name without losing the core identity. How about ‘Uptroit,? Or ‘Newtroit"? Or, how about being counterintuitive and renaming the city ‘Jobtroit’?
Prof: "Mediocre suggestions, but exactly what a large agency would suggest. Nice. Other thoughts? Yes, Descartes."
Descartes: "That’s Dick Harte, professor."
Prof: "Whatever. Your thoughts, Mr. Harte?"
Harte: "I’d co-opt the city’s tough, urban image and devise a tagline that means nothing and which no one will remember."
Prof: "Makes sense, and is certainly in line with what most agencies charge lots of money to do. Go on"
Harte: "I’m thinking of two approaches. The first is pure urban and
goes like this: ‘Detroit: who said anything about damn jobs?"
The second is warmer and fuzzier, but rings true just the same:
‘Detroit: we’re putting the life back into work-life balance.’
Prof: "Love it. Just love it. There are no jobs, so one really can
enjoy loads of free time in the Motor City. Rings true to me. Anyone
else? Yes, do I see Heddy Lamar raising her hand?’
Lamar: "That’s Hedley, professor. My idea would be to abandon today’s
reality, leverage global warming fears and sell the future of Detroit."
Prof: "Intriguing. Go on.’
Lamar: ‘Based upon global warming’s nightmarish predictions, Florida
will be underwater in a few generations. So how about an
investment-oriented ad and PR campaign that positions Detroit as the
Miami Beach of 2050 and features a slogan like, ‘This particular hell
won’t freeze over’ or ‘Not so great in ’08, but you just wait.’ We’d
then have visuals of happy-go-lucky vacationers waterskiing on what
used to be the Detroit River but, now, courtesy of global warming, is
America’s new South Beach.’
Prof: ‘Good, off-the-shelf stuff, Lamar. Lame as can be but, again, indicative of big agency thinking. Nice work everyone.
Your homework assignment is to put yourself in the position of smaller,
more nimble and more creative independent agencies, and come in
tomorrow with solutions that might actually work for Detroit. Class
I know, I know! What if we do a co-branded survey with Travel and Leisure Magazine about new cities to visit in 2008. Then, we can pitch these results to the Wall Street Journal as this would be PERFECT for that middle column on the front page. We could also have an event at Grand Central Station where we invite the press, some local school kids and the Detroit Tigers to show what a wonderful city it is.