great matters


San Diego: A Marketing Agency Hotbed

// August 2, 2010 // Advertising // 5 Comments

I am so darned sick and tired of marketing agency people with an inferiority complex about being in San Diego, and last week creative legend Mike Hughes had my back.  Mike was in town to speak to a group of marketing leaders gathered by San Diego AdClub, and one of the key points he made was that creativity can come from anywhere – even San Diego.

Mike is the creative genius at The Martin Agency (ADWEEK agency of the year), and is the guy behind blockbuster advertising campaigns for GEICO (geckos, cavemen, dancing money), Walmart (tear jerker holiday ads with snow falling on troops in Iraq), the singing guy from and more.  And that award winning blockbuster agency is located in….Richmond, Virginia.

Richmond? Population 204,000 thousand, humid in the summer and snowy in the winter, miles from anything remotely cultural, capital of the Confederacy and firmly planted in Southern traditions.

Yet guys like Mike Hughes can thrive there.  Creative geniuses from around the country are drawn there. Talent grows and prospers there.

So why would we not expect the same or better from San Diego?  We’re a happy bunch, basking in nearly perfect weather, enjoying a plethora of cultural events and arts, inspired by people of all ethnicities and backgrounds, and uniquely uber cool.

Look at this amazing work by some of our best local talent, and tell me there’s not the seed of some greatness here.  We just have to nurture it so it can grow into the next Martin Agency or Crispin Porter (Miami? Gimme a break).

Come on folks. Drop the apologies and just pony up. We deserve the cred.

    author bio

    Chief Relationships Officer/Rainmaker/Strategy Guy/Goof. A guy with a point of view and not afraid to share it. Jon is a student of human behavior, and loves linking his odd perceptions with real-life brand situations. Organic farmer and keeper of menagerie that includes a dog, chickens, fish, crawdads and soon a gecko. His kids still think he's cool at least.


    1. Hey Jon, this all looks like more than just seeds of greatness. I see a lot of blooming going on and I’m glad to be a part of it. Thanks for keeping the creative juices flowing in San Diego.

    2. The only thing I would have to chime in on is that I sense a little bit of, well, excuse me — snobbery in this. I don’t mean to offend, but I’d just like to point it out as what it sounds like to someone who comes from elsewhere. I’m absolutely sure that this tone is unintended, but let me explain.

      Having been born and bred in Smalltownville (Greeley), Colorado, and thinking that having more than a quarter million people makes for a decent-sized place (Greeley has approx. 85k in population), perhaps you’re missing out on other details that may make a particular location better than another when it comes to hosting a great agency.

      Let’s not forget that CP+B is also in Boulder, and Alex Bogusky chose to live in Boulder for a reason. If we can look past the beauty of the Flatirons for a second, think about this: there are 100k people there (when school is in session!); the state capital, which is almost an hour away, has a population of 1.5 million including surrounding areas; there’s snow in the winter and the temps can be extreme year-round; and its homogeneity encourages some close-mindedness. Boulder is one of the few “blue” spots in the middle of a very “red” state, something that continuously breeds contentment from fellow Coloradoans.

      How can places like that cultivate amazing things when they don’t have what we have in San Diego? Perhaps what they do have is a better sense of community. While I definitely think there are some great urban communities here in San Diego — better than Denver, that’s for sure — I do think that the “small town” attitude is missing from many San Diego creative communities. If we in San Diego conduct ourselves more like it’s a small town than it is a decent-sized metro area of over a million, perhaps the “hotbed” status will come to us before long.

    3. I LOVE that you have this point of view Jen – thank you for expressing it so well. I completely agree that creativity can come from anywhere – Richmond, Boulder, San Diego – and that is exactly my point. Just trying to get San Diegans out of a perceived slump of low expectations. A bit of cheerleading? Maybe. But necessary every now and then.
      .-= Jon´s last blog ..Word of Mouth Marketing is Alive and Well =-.

    4. GREAT Discussion.

      I Love San Diego and I’ve brought many executives to the city by way of being tasked to locate top Ad Agency talent. I have a condo in San Diego and have made it my personal choice to always call it home whether I’ve lived there full time or not. I feel safe in San Diego, I like its optimism, I (liked) the fact I could travel to Mexico on the weekends – and experience the rich culture. (Another topic but related to below).

      I’d like to share what we hear as trusted talent advisors: One of the largest complaints by established highly gifted Creatives (from other cultural hot beds like NYC & SF) is San Diego’s lack of a melded ‘diversified’ culture.

      Creatives are well; creative. They are highly conceptual artists. Where did Andy Warhol thrive, why? Many creatives thrive in diversity, the quirky, the unexpected, the unusual ….the community of ‘being different’ the admiration from the masses….that they are ‘really cool’ for being unconventional.

      Boulder-ites have a radical mentality(blue)as to(red)that bonds them in innovation, rebel’s (a movement, if you will) – spilling into Denver’s deep technology roots from the .com I was pulling people from Denver (for WPP) in the .com. Alex took that into consideration, I’m sure.

      Here’s an honest, true example: I flew in a top Creative (recent Cannes Winner) not too long ago and can you all guess where they wanted to visit the most? What they wanted to go do in San Diego FIRST?

      They wanted to go to Barrio Logan.

      It was first on the list. The second see TJ “off” Revolution Ave. My creative executive did not wish to walk amongst the serene marina’s….the beautiful beaches….the gorgeous, tony streets of La Jolla…or explore Del Mar from that song that was so popular. NOPE. Pardon please; but I was actually asked …where are the black people? Where is the rich gritty Mexican cultural influence? I took them to Old Town, unfortunately they were not impressed.

      This was followed by; “I don’t think I could do this Christie. I don’t think I could be my quirky creative self and be ‘embraced’ by who I am, where I go, how I dress, how I talk, it looks a bit of a lonely place, for someone like me. I get my inspiration for my ideas through experiencing, living, breathing different-ness not sitting on a serene marina.”

      What can we say about that? I’d like to hear the answer; it will help me in my Recruiting.
      .-= Christie Cordes´s last blog ..Ad-Recruiter- “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little” Edmund Burke =-.

    5. ADVERTISING AGE just named a (San Diego Digital Innovator) as one of the top places to work in Marketing: That article is a FIRM step in the right direction.
      .-= Christie Cordes´s last blog ..Ad-Recruiter- “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little” Edmund Burke =-.