Campbell Ewald Move: Jalopnik Mocks Metro Detroit's Regional Myopia

March 13, 2013, 9:37 AM

You may have heard the news that Campbell Ewald, after spending 30-some years in Warren, has decided to move back downtown. And, because you are reasonable person who recognizes that businesses  occasionally find new offices for a myriad of reasons, probably didn't care all that much. C-E is staying in the region, so this isn't a big deal except for those into the inside baseball world of marketing and advertising, right? You might think that, but you would be oh so wrong.

Macomb County went apeshit. Warren Mayor Jim Fouts was howling at the moon about how Warren has a cool new WalMart while Detroit drools. The Macomb Daily's Chad Selweski clutched pearls and fretted that Macomb must respond to this crisis of creative agencies locating in urban centers that appeal to young creative professionals. We are trending dangerously close to a story about a waitress at Michelle's diner struggling to make it in this post C-E Warren.

Thankfully, Jalopnik's Ryan Felton was around to disembowel the purveyors of regional stupidity.

CEO of CE Bill Ludwig was quoted as saying the decision was a "cultural" one, not one that was financially driven. Translation: I don't want my workers to have to look outside at parking lots and chain restaurants anymore.
With Ludwig's context in mind, imagine yourself a junior copywriter at an advertising agency. Would you feel inspired looking out the window at [Warren]?
How lovely! A road. Perhaps after coughing up some copy I could walk to the Olive Garden, Buddy's Pizza, Old Country Buffet, or Applebees on my 30-minute lunch break because nothing else is really here. Awesome.
Warren, whatever its charms may be, is not the kind of place to which an agency can easily attract top talent. Sorry, that's just a reality. Maybe things were different in 1978 when C-E went suburban to better service their long-time (and now former) anchor client, Chevrolet. However, the people C-E needs to attract these days weren't alive in 1978. And proximeity to the GM Tech Center isn't relevant anymore.
If guys like Fouts and Selweski really want to attract/retain firms like Campbell Ewald, here's a pro tip: Warren should stop being so Warren-like. That is, a place filled stripmalls and Old Country Buffets. It needs to stop being a place where a 60-something mayor brags about job-creation at a Medicaid-subsidized WalMart and personally directs city government to play Frank Sinatra tunes as hold music in an effort to create "culture". 
Or, actually, Warren shouldn't change. Maybe it's OK that Warren appeals largely to an older, white, and working-class population while Detroit (downtown, anyway) attracts a younger -- forgive me, Father, for using this phrase -- "creative class" demographic.
Felton, citing a Federal Reserve study, explains why regional symbiosis, rather than competition, is better for all involved.
A region needs a strong core to thrive. A region cannot -- and will not -- thrive if every tiny municipality in the region seeks to duke it out with one another over jobs [see: metro Detroit]. Detroit, although not the regional driver it could be, is where it needs to be.
Detroit attracting its suburbs business, and not new out-of-state businesses, isn't a bad thing. Regionalism is going to be necessary for Detroit to experience any sort of real, visible turnaround, and when it does happen, the effects on the region will be visible and most likely profound.
Here's what Jim Fouts and too many metro Detroiters of his generation simply don't understand and probably never will understand: A Campbell Ewald no longer tethered to Chevy (much like graduating seniors at Michigan, Michigan State, et al) isn't debating between Warren and Detroit. The real discussion is about whether they can stay here with a downtown office or if they need to go somewhere else, like Chicago or Pittsburgh or New York.
And all the Frank Sinatra hold music in the world can't change that reality. 

Earlier coverage

Macomb Daily: Detroit May 'Now Have the Upper hand in Attracting Businesses and Jobs', March 10

Read more:  Jalopnik

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