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Cities

Why One Ad Agency Is Moving to Detroit, and Thinks You Should, Too

Skeptics who have long since given up on Detroit dismiss the city as dilapidated, deserted, desperate. Not so, argue some of the country’s leading innovators, who instead see a city brimming with creativity, community, and opportunity for change. Detroit may be bankrupt, they say, but that’s not stopping them from moving there—to be a part of the change that’s unfolding and on the front lines of the renaissance to come.

Among those innovators heading to Detroit is ad agency Lowe Campbell Ewald, which recently produced a short video heralding their move. Since it was posted on July 26, the video has garnered more than 34,000 hits on YouTube. “We’re moving to Detroit, and so should you,” Iain Lanivich, Lowe Campbell Ewald’s creative director, says in the video, adding that the company plans to transplant some 600 employees to the city by early 2014.

The ad agency’s promotional video comes on the heels of Detroit’s July 18 bankruptcy announcement, a headline Lanivich addresses directly on camera. “Does it bother us that Detroit went bankrupt?” Lanivich asks. “Not really. What matters is that it’s rich in creativity, innovation, and inspiration.”

Others featured in the video—including Detroit-based entrepreneur Henry Balanon and the creators of a movement to bring the X-Games to Detroit—aren’t bothered by the city’s bankruptcy, either. They believe they and the city are up to the challenge.

“Detroit’s … a vanguard city. So everyone’s watching how we deal with bankruptcy and how we deal with all these problems and issues,” X-Games to Detroit co-creator Kevin Krease says. “If you want to … be a part of that vanguard movement that’s going to speak for the rest of the nation and what happens, you come to Detroit.”

The idea that Detroit’s story is inextricably linked with the American story is a powerful one. It’s one of the reasons Techonomy will hold its second Detroit conference on September 17 at Wayne State University. Techonomy Detroit will bring together some of the nation’s top technology, business, government, and academic leaders to look at how we can apply tech and innovation to economic renewal and urban revival.

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