By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on May 22, 2015
The Metro Atlanta Chamber’s new marketing campaign — officially unveiled at its board meeting on May 21 — can be defined as much by what it is not than by what it is.
For starters, you won’t see it on television commercials. And you won’t see a blitz with famous Atlantans selling the Atlanta region.
You won’t even see the Metro Atlanta Chamber brand anywhere on it. Although the initial funding for the campaign has come from the chamber’s Forward Atlanta fund, the business organization wanted to include chambers and economic developers from throughout its 29-county region to be part of the effort.
Perhaps most significantly, the region is being sold under the simple brand: Atlanta.
Not metro Atlanta. Not Atlanta region. Not Greater Atlanta. Just Atlanta.
“This is a unique modern era for us,” said Craig Lesser, who is chairing the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Regional Economic Competitiveness Strategy — an initiative that was integral to the chamber’s marketing campaign. “We all actually like each other. This has been a wonderful collaborative effort with dozens of elected officials, economic development officials, economic development people, chambers of commerce. It’s unprecedented in the modern era.”
So what is the campaign? It is part of the Metro Chamber’s strategic plan that focuses on three areas: Retain and attract talented individuals from around the country and the world; recruit companies to move here and retain those that are here — especially innovative ones; and get people and companies to invest here.
“We decided that we would begin by focusing on talent,” said Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. “One of our targets is millennials. But it’s not just millennials. We are trying to attract and retain all individuals with talent.”
The campaign is centered around the www.chooseATL.com website — and it features several people who have chosen to live in Atlanta because of the region’s economic opportunity and quality of life.
The firms of Nebo and BBDO created the campaign elements and the website, and it is meant to be highly interactive so people can learn about the Atlanta region and perhaps dispel some inaccurate perceptions.
Some of the print ads will feature how much of the city is covered by trees; another the nationally recognized restaurants; the 60 live music venues; the fact that it is a top 10 venture capital city; and that most of the country is accessible within a two-hour flight from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
“This is a perception-changing website,” said Tim Wilson with BBDO, who moved to Atlanta from London last year and said he could have used such a website to learn about the city.
Adam Harrell with Nebo said communities have to approach marketing campaigns differently — from a grassroots point of view. For example, they decided to take the success of the Atlanta BeltLine’s lantern parade and export it to Austin’s South by Southwest festival. They found out who from Atlanta would be going to SxSW, had a lantern-making workshop, planned a parade, got a large crowd to show up and created a buzz.
“It has to be cutting-edge,” Lesser said. “It has to be dynamic. And it has to be the best of its kind in the country.”
At a soft-launch event on May 19 for millennials at General Assembly in Ponce City Market, individuals featured in the campaign shared their thoughts about Atlanta.
Anna Ruth Williams, a public relations executive, said she wanted to be able to walk from one meeting to the other, and her dream of a perfect weekend was not having to drive her car.
Almost all spoke about the creative and development energy that was happening around the BeltLine. And entrepreneur Asif Ramji said a big draw was the ability to attract talent to work at local companies.
But it was Chris Appleton, the CEO of the arts collaborative WonderRoot, who noticed what was different: “I don’t ever remember being at an event like this with so many people my own age.”