Curb Your Unenthusiasm: Curbed Detroit Snipes At Tourism Ad

We're no strangers to slinging sarcasm, so this could be a pot-kettle callout. Snarky send-ups are driven by personal point of view, after all.   

Still, a frame-by-frame takedown of the new Pure Michigan ad showing "the memorable sights and the limitless energy" of downtown Detroit seems like sniping at a cuddly bunny -- unsporting and pointless.

That's not just because the sharp-edged critique -- Pure Michigan Half-Asses a New Video For Detroit -- appears at Curbed Detroit, part of a 13-site group that says it provides "witty and insightful coverage of the country's most vibrant urban centers." It's because the object of scorn and ridicule is an ad with marketing messages and images showing Detroit's appeal.

Does the commercial cherry-pick, glitz up and sugar-coat? Ahem, is that bunny cuddly?  

In any event, local Curbed editor Paul Beshouri takes aim in a 213-word post illustrated with six frames from what he calls "this obligatory 30-second tourism pitch that should convince absolutely no one to visit the city."

The real estate site editor fairly notes that the GM Plaza fountain gushing on screen "has been turned off for maintenance until further notice." Solid shot, on-target.

"Have you been to Slows in the evening? This sidewalk should be PACKED," Curbed Detroit says under a full-frame version of this Pure Michigan ad image.

Beshouri also unloads less well-aimed potshots in photo captions:

  • Detroit Opera House side view: "The Russell Alger Memorial Fountain's basin is no longer sky blue, was it was given a black liner during its restoration earlier this summer. (It wasn't working for a while before that.) Also, every other fountain downtown is more exciting than this one. And why are there no people?"
  • Michigan Avenue sidewalk with three pedestrians: "Have you been to Slows in the evening? This sidewalk should be PACKED."
  • Campus Martius Park at night: "Exterior signage and those blue awnings are still on the First National Building, meaning this may have been shot before (or shortly after) Gilbert bought the building in 2011. Campus Martius generally looks far more lively these days." 
  • Riverboat and skyline: "The Detroit Princess looks devoid of people, lights, and appears to be drifting on a collision path with whatever rig these people are on. Why is the RenCen dark?"
  • Three Tigers trotting onto empty field: "We couldn't even shoot Comerica Park with people in the stands?! Come on!"

Yes, that last one is grin-worthy. The ad image obviously was staged for convenience rather than realism -- perhaps because the director thought "it'll be up briefly -- who'll notice?"

Curbed's eagle-eye editor, that's who. Beshouri unquestionably can spot details and knows a lot about downtown -- assets for his job.

But as a reader using the screen name "Daveyarm" notes among four dozen mostly critical comments under his post:

"It is totally unfair for you to criticize the scenes shown in the video. You show them as stills, which gives ample time to analyze. In the video, however, they each showed for just a second or two, way too short for people to be as critical as you are of the stills."

That comment and all but a handful of others are posted without real names, which is as unfair as . . . well, enough about bunny killing.

Here's just one more on Curbed's thread, posted in an up-front way (Facebook sign-in) by Blake Almstead:

This ad is perfectly fine. The fact that they produced it is great and sure it could be better, the city could be filled with people and a million other ways to showcase the city. It's probably not the last commercial about Detroit, but for a state tourism campaign it is getting the job done that is consistent with the rest of the brand.    

Yes, that.

And speaking of brand consistency, I suggest that Curbed Detroit slips this time on "witty and insightful coverage."

Beshouri is unavailable to respond Wednesday. Sarah F. Cox, national editorial director of the Curbed network, declined to comment on the post. 

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