Moving to a new home can mean different things for different people. Sometimes it's a hope for a bigger and better life. Sometimes it's a long awaited return to the place you belong. For the advertising agency Campbell Ewald -now named Lowe Campbell Ewald
– it's a little bit of both.
In March of last year, the ad agency’s leadership team announced their decision to move from Warren back to Detroit. The firm was launched in Detroit in 1911 but moved to the suburbs when its biggest client at the time (Chevrolet) did too.
For agency Group Digital Creative Director Iain Lanivich, the big move was, unfortunately, the perfect time to get the flu. Excited to have an office in the D, he had managed to organize and pack up a dozen years worth of belongings then promptly got sick. It was a rare instance of down time for a creative who has seen his start quickly rise.
Lanivich joined the agency in 2000 after working at Compuware as a technical systems analyst. A friend who worked at Campbell Ewald mentioned a job opening for an associate digital producer. Iain took the job and began evolving websites and online presence for clients.
Every year, Lowe Campbell Ewald sends employees to the South by Southwest
(SxSW) conference in Austin, Texas. Lanivich got together with his PR team this past summer and decided to submit a video entry for SX*SW that highlighted the positive side of the city that the agency would soon call home. The City of Detroit had just filed for bankruptcy, and the team wanted to show SxSW that the news from Motown wasn’t all doom and gloom.
After the video was posted online, it quickly went viral. As word spread, Lanivich and his team not only showed SxSW what was great about Detroit, they ended up showing the world.
Iain spoke with Metromode about the SX*SW video, his upcoming talk at the conference, and the exciting changes happening in the D. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did the video come to be? Was the reaction to it pretty instantaneous?
After we (the PR team and I) decided on our topic, we knew we had less than a week to get the video submission put together. We did it all in four days - wrote the script, contacted the folks who we wanted to be in the video and filmed it.
We uploaded the video to YouTube at about 2:00am on a Saturday morning but the actual submission wasn’t due until Sunday. The next night, I got a Facebook friend request from a journalist in Miami saying that there was a conversation about the video on his Facebook page. The Free Press called on Monday and it took off very quickly after that. Emails, LinkedIn connections, tweets, and video shares followed.
From there, things happened pretty quickly. SX*SW chooses its sessions based on the number of votes given by the general public, along with their advisory board and staff input. However, when we uploaded our video the actual voting for SX*SW didn’t happen for a few more weeks! So we had over 40,000 views of our video but no votes on the SX*SW site! We launched a new effort and put up a site called www.VoteForDetroit.com which directed people to the SX*SW voting page. We got enough votes and support from SX*SW that a few months later, they selected our topic and scheduled it for March 10..
Do you have a sense of what that experience will be like? What are you doing to prepare?
We are reaching out to other Detroiters who will be there with the hopes of having them in the room on March 10. We want to have people who can answer very specific questions from folks who are looking to move their businesses into the city. We also are relaunching the www.voteforDetroit.com
website which will tie into a Tumblr account that will feature various posts about Detroit.
Earlier you said that you were able to complete the video in four days, including getting the people in the video to agree to appear. How did that happen so quickly?
There is a creative-tech community in Detroit that looks first to see how we can help each other thrive. For instance, my agency brings marketing expertise so we are always looking to see how we can use our skills to help other groups with different skill sets. Because of this, I know a good number of entrepreneurs in the city and they were more than happy to help out.
What are three things you would say to someone who is thinking of relocating their business to the city?
First, do your research and don’t just look at the surface. In a perfect world, everything would be fixed at once but right now it is happening in downtown and Midtown. It is starting somewhere with leaders who are committed and want to spread out the change.
Next, reach out to people. There is a diverse group of people working in Detroit. I am setting up meetings with creative stakeholders who are already working in the city - the makers, the engineers, the tech folks, designers, web developers, and so on. All of these different people have different types of skills. Ultimately, I would like to have a collective of people together who can discuss how we can help each other out. So anyone who is thinking of moving in should reach out to another company who is already established and ask them who to talk to.
Third, get in touch with D:Hive
. They are a starting ground of who’s who and can help someone find the best location for their business.
Iain Lanivich will be hosting the “We’re Moving to Detroit, and So Should You” session on March 10 at the SX*SW Interactive conference. Stay up to date by going to www.voteforDetroit.com
Patti Smith is a special education teacher and freelance writer who lives in Ann Arbor and who blogs about beer at www.teacherpatti.com. This is her first story for Metromode.
All Photos by David Lewinski Photography