One of the most famous illustrations ever to grace the cover of The New Yorker was Saul Steinberg’s “Flyover States” cartoon. Half the page was a drawing of Manhattan from 9th Avenue to the Hudson; the rest of the country was squeezed into the other half. Los Angeles barely made the map.
And, from an advertising industry standpoint, there was a certain amount of truth exhibited in that 1976 drawing. Back then, the No. 1 account at Los Angeles’ largest agency was Sunkist, and the biggest account at the second largest agency was Mattel. National accounts were few and far between, and car accounts barely mattered.
Did you know that today, Los Angeles is often billed as the “Creative Capital of the World?” One out of every six L.A. residents works in a creatively driven business. There are more artists, writers, filmmakers, actors, dancers and musicians living and working in Los Angeles than in any other city in America, and that includes The Big Apple.
Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Playa Vista and Marina del Rey—a.k.a. “Silicon Beach”—are home to some of the hottest tech companies in the world. L.A. supplies the world with content, celebrity culture, the Kardashians (we’re not perfect!) and trends.
And all that creativity has helped fuel a renaissance in Los Angeles’s advertising scene as well, one that’s been noticed (and supported) by advertisers across the country.
Late last year, MillerCoors hired TBWA/Chiat/Day as its creative agency for Miller Lite. According to its chief marketing officer, Andy England, “[We] did not make a deliberate choice to work with a California agency. But I will say that I think the sensibility that a California agency brought to the brief was critical.” He added that Los Angeles “is at this point, the intersection of all great things: creativity, design, technology, entertainment, music—it’s all happening in L.A. right now.”
Sprint (out of Kansas City) and Pizza Hut (out of Dallas) recently hired Deutsch LA. Both of these clients have a track record of working with Midwest/East Coast agencies.
Target, based in Minneapolis, has been doling out project work to 72andSunny for several years; that agency also picked up the National Legacy Foundation anti-smoking campaign. Texas-based Patron Tequila hired Mullen LA in 2014. Nissan stayed with OMD last year despite the relocation of its corporate headquarters to Nashville.
Siltanen & Partners recently won VTech, a Midwest toy company. In choosing the L.A. agency, Jennifer Eiselein, director of marketing at VTech Electronics North America, said, “During our search, we were open to agencies regardless of location but the primary factor for us was the quality of the talent that would be working on our business. We were also looking for an agency with excellent production capabilities and efficiencies which made L.A as a whole, and Siltanen & Partners in particular, the perfect choice.”
My agency, Horizon Media, won Chicago-based Corona Beer a few years back. One of the reasons we were selected was for our West Coast sensibility, which was reinforced by our understanding and expertise in reaching the Latino consumer. And while New York media agencies still dominate the national television buying business, Los Angeles media shops often lead the way in understanding that there are a lot of consumers “out there” beyond the Hudson River whose purchase behavior varies greatly.
Yes, we still answer to “LaLaLand.” And yes, car chases on the freeways still often dominate the local news. And yes, we have some truly strange laws, including prohibitions against licking toads and wearing zoot suits.
But when it comes to living and working in an environment where digital media, creativity, global communications, the entertainment industry and advertising converge, it’s hard to beat Los Angeles. Today’s communication infrastructure more often than not renders proximity unnecessary. The only thing that truly matters is talent—and L.A. is filled with it.
So, on behalf of the Los Angeles advertising industry, I’d like to extend a personal invitation to any advertiser in the country that wants to get a sense of what the L.A. agency scene has to offer—check us out. We’ll introduce you to content creators, studio executives, tech innovators, private equity financiers and, of course, the leaders of some of the best creative and media agencies in the world.
P.S. Sorry San Francisco, we love you, but it’s L.A’s turn to shine.
Rosenberg, in addition to his executive role at Horizon Media, is also a member of the thinkLA board of directors. thinkLA is a nonprofit association founded to promote Los Angeles as a network of creativity and innovation in media, marketing and advertising. It was born in 2006 when three ad industry organizations—the Los Angeles Advertising Agencies Association, the Ad Club of Los Angeles and the Magazine Representatives Association—merged to create a new nonprofit, mutual beneficial trade association.