Mayor Julián Castro and City Manager Sheryl Sculley deserve a better script to sell San Antonio, I say to myself while waiting with my family for our luggage at the San Antonio International Airport. Castro is the most youthful, mediagenic big city mayor in the country, and our city manager runs marathons, but you'd never know it from the stifled, dark suit stand ups someone staged for them.
The din of the luggage carousels as Spring Break comes to an end means passengers can't even hear what Castro and Sculley are saying on the welcome video, or what their cast of supporting actors (Ed Whitacre Eva Longoria...) are saying. Why not a video with upbeat music instead of dialogue, something with a bit of pace and flash? Oh well. Few in the crowd are watching, anyway, as the video -- I'm not making this up -- cuts away to highway signs for the airport and the parking garage. Did we taxpayers pay for that?
In the YouTube age, this Welcome to San Antonio effort sucks.
San Antonio is becoming a city worth watching. It's always been a city worth visiting, and for more and more people from somewhere else, it's a city worth calling home. Good jobs are being created in a number of fields: technology, cybersecurity, biosciences, the oil and gas fields, clean energy, insurance and the state's leading grocer. Downtown has never been more vibrant, the arts and nightlife more interesting, the buzz more deserved.
But the pitch is still stuck on the city we once were. Ever wonder what young people cruising the web find when they search San Antonio? Take a look. It's the same old stuff: The Alamo, Sea World, Fiesta Texas, the River Walk. Some of the websites look like the advent of the Internet. Same with the print campaigns -- it's still mariachi on the Paseo del Rio. It's time to go digital with a new approach.
It was painful for Bromley, the San Antonio ad agency, to lose the lucrative city contract it has held for a decade after wrenching it from the Atkins Agency, which held a lock on it for nearly two decades. Give Sculley & Team credit for making a hard choice and voting an out-of-town firm as the new winner. Give Castro and the City Council credit for sticking with their recommendation. That's good leadership at work.
Watch today as the city's new Facebook campaign begins to unfold, a long overdue step in the social media world of messaging. The campaign is the brainchild of the new ad agency, Proof Advertising of Austin (@proofadv), assisted by their local rep firm, Komet Marketing (@komet_marketing). Mayor Castro kicks off the campaign at 11 a.m. today at the Guadalupe Plaza on the city's Westside.
For those of you still resisting the world of Facebook, Twitter and other social media, you might wonder why this is such a big deal. For a city trying to hang on to its talented young people and attract more like them to live and work here, it's pretty obvious. There are 750 million people on Facebook. We only need some of them to "like" us for the campaign to make a difference. So get out your camera and start clicking and uploading. You now control the message. The new picture of the city as projected by the Convention and Visitors Bureau on its Facebook page will be defined by tens of thousands of people, if the campaign works.
Other cities are far ahead of us in the innovative marketing game, but San Antonio can catch up and even do some original cutting-edge stuff with the right creative people set free to take some risks. That means moving some money away from traditional advertising and marketing venues and redirecting it to new platforms. That means pissing off some vested interests, like the downtown hotel operators. Let's do it.
It will take more than an army of people with iPhones. I'd start by hiring a really creative guy named Dave Sims. Never heard of him? He's a filmmaker by training and now a Racker, actually the official videographer at Rackspace. Sims came here two years ago from San Diego, and is part of a creative team whose full-time job is documenting the creative work and people at the tech company. His actual job title is Producer and Lead Storyteller. He's good.
" I quickly came to see Rackspace as an innovator, changing the world through technology and changing the business world through it’s vibrant culture," Sims told me. "Documenting the people who are driving Rackspace forward and the journey that Rackspace is on has become my personal mission."
Here is some of his work if you want to experience a different approach than the show currently playing at the San Antonio airport:
Rackspace-Day in the Life
Rackspace-Get your Awesome On!
You can find more on the Rackspace website.
That brings me to my list of 10 Ways to Better Sell San Antonio, stuff I'd like to see incorporated into the airport videos and all the advertising and marketing underwritten by our tax dollars. You undoubtedly have your two cents to add.
1. Get Sims and the Rackspace Culture and Communication Support Team to shoot the next airport video. Use that work to open the video screens to the city's growing community of young videographers and create a new program to showcase their best work on the airport big screens. Bring in filmmaker and creative force Jim Mendiola to oversee the project, then stand back and watch.
2. Add some screens to other parts of the airport. Who said the only thing people will watch while waiting for a flight is Fox News or CNN?
3. Promote downtown as a place where people live and work, not just a place where tourists and conventioneers come for a few days. The Broadway Corridor, Downtown, and Southtown offer three compelling acts in a far more interesting drama, a story we ignore in our efforts to win the hearts and minds of people who live somewhere else.
4. Give the mayor, city manager and Eva better scenes and better lines. Lose the suits and ties and staged stand ups. Show them at work, but show them at play, too. San Antonio has leadership with personality. Sell it.
5. Expand the cast to include the rest of us. How about the crew at The Monterey? Check out their fresh approach to showcasing great food and ambiance. And work in Bliss, Feast, Le Frite, Rosario's and Liberty Bar. And El Mirador, Cascabel, and Taco Haven. While in Southtown, check out the work being done in the glass-blowing studio by Gina Garcia and team. San Antonio has some interesting crowd scenes worth showing: Luminaria, Fiesta, First Friday, and downtown parties whenever the Spurs bring home an NBA Championship.
6. Show off Smart San Antonio. That means UTSA, Trinity, UIW and our other centers of learning. Hell, show an advanced math class with a few equations on the blackboard. Let's expose our brainy side.
7. Take people into our museums and arts spaces: the McNay, The San Antonio Museum, the Witte, the new Briscoe Western, the Blue Star. We have some great spaces and some great collections and local artists worth showing off.
8. Show our healthier side: Síclovía, the San Antonio Marathon, The MS Ride to the River. We were first with a B-Cycle program, and these days the inner city is filled with people of all ages on bikes.
9. The San Antonio Missions are the city's best kept secret. Tell people about our campaign to win World Heritage Site status. Okay, now it's time for the mariachi. Show the Mariachi Sunday Mass, don't forget San Fernando Cathedral, and yes, include the famous Alamo, aka Mission San Antonio de Valero, the city's first Mission.
10. Save the best for last: The San Antonio River. Start at the Pearl and the Museum Reach and head south, through the commercial district of the River Walk. Too few people continue on to experience the quiet, landscaped beauty of King William, or the wildscape of the Mission Reach, a work in progress and an easy, shaded walk from those downtown hotels.
I can hardly wait for my next visit to the airport luggage carousels.