by Andrea Wiley
Today creative millennials want to be Downtown, where they can easily walk from home to work, get a coffee or a bite to eat, with access to the arts, live music and sporting events, and mix and mingle with multicultural peers who range in diverse mindsets.
Who can blame them? These desired environments encourage exploration and provide inspiration, which are key ingredients in creativity.
While this seems like a new idea to some, the creative firms in Memphis were early adopters to this notion, with several locating downtown in the 1990s or sooner, and they are still advocates today. Through branding and promoting our city’s most valued amenities and attractions, investment in real estate and talent acquisition, the advertising and marketing groups are supporting the development of downtown Memphis in a big way, and have been for a long time.
Archer Malmo, the largest independent agency in the Mid-South, advocates for being intentional in making Downtown attractive to the creative and technology talent necessary for the Memphis advertising industry to compete in today’s digital economy.
“We believe the best way for us to contribute to that strategy is to grow our own firm and create jobs,” says Archer Malmo CEO Russ Williams. “Since 2009, our Downtown Memphis staff has grown from 80 to 175, so we’ve created 95 new jobs in that time. We are also a long-term strategic partner of Start Co. and deeply committed to their efforts to build a strong community of entrepreneurs downtown.”
Stinson Liles and Martin Wilford, principals at Red Deluxe Brand Development, have been agency owners for more than 20 years and worked with several Downtown clients including Riverfront Development Corporation on the new RiverLine downtown trail system and Old Dominick Distillery on Front Street. “Probably the biggest impact we’ve made on the Downtown brand is in our 10-plus years of work with the Grizzlies,” explains Liles. “Together, we realized that the Memphis and Grizzlies brands should be deeply intertwined. And today ‘Believe Memphis’ is a crucial and undeniable part of the Downtown brand. In the end, that’s really all a brand is — a compelling and irresistible invitation to believe.”
Hemline Creative Marketing, all female-owned and operated, was established in 2004 and has called South Main home ever since. Owners Kelley Morice and Cynthia Saatkamp have always been intentional about supporting clients that bring vitality to the area, such as the Memphis Farmers Market, RiverArtsFest, and the newly renovated 409 South Main, an event space and food hall concept.
Doug Carpenter, owner of DCA, believes that any metropolis is only as strong as its downtown core. “From our engagements with clients like Big River Crossing to our activation of Loflin Yard and Explore Bike Share, we have successfully advanced our clients’ causes while adding to the landscape of Downtown Memphis,” he says. “Our recent acquisition of the historic Nabisco warehouse building for our DCA headquarters is a pretty good indication of our investment.”
Another firm that will be relocating soon is Oden, which has been Downtown for 21 years and headquartered in two historic structures — the Falls and the Pembroke Buildings. Now Oden is driving an even deeper stake in Downtown, as they purchase and renovate another landmark building at the corner of Vance and B.B. King Boulevard. “We are genuinely excited about the chance to bring that corner to life,” says Bill Carkeet, principal at Oden. “Our hope is that our investment serves as a catalyst for further growth in that area.”
Inferno has called Downtown and South Main home for 17 years, geography that is a vital part of the agency’s DNA. “From the beginning, we wanted to be a deliberate part of the area’s development efforts,” says Tim Sellers, principal at Inferno. “When we renovated the abandoned cargo holding bays in the Central Train Station and first opened our doors, we were truly a part of the southern frontier of Downtown development.”
While a number of creative firms have moved downtown in more recent years, the most significant is Y&R, one of the largest marketing and communications firms in the world, who selected Downtown Memphis as its newest location.
Ken Dowling, Global Client Leader at Y&R, says, “From day one, Downtown Memphis was the only place we considered locating our new office. We felt it was important to integrate ourselves into the heart of the business community and become part of the cultural fabric of Memphis. Y&R is committed to establishing and growing our footprint in Memphis and we felt a kindred spirit with the city around its revitalization. To that end, we have made a major commitment to the Memphis Brand Initiative to support brand development and marketing communications for the city.”
It’s no wonder Downtown development is booming and millennials, not to mention established businesses and startups alike, want to be a part of what our marketing and advertising firms have been invested in for decades. The bottom line is that the creative inspiration that is fueled by our city’s grit, grind, and historical bluesy ways is worth every penny.
Andrea Wiley is an adjunct professor teaching advertising at the University of Memphis and was the 2015-2016 President of the Memphis Chapter of the American Advertising Federation.
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