Kudos To CITI Bank For Helping Detroit Bring Back Hope And Shine Brighter

Posted by Allan Steinmetz on 1 September 2015

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I lived in Detroit for over 17 years and worked in the automotive advertising industry (1976 – 1993). I started out in Detroit right after graduating with a Master’s of Science in Advertising from the University of Illinois. I was fortunate enough to get a job in the media department at McCann-Erickson working on the Buick and GMC truck account. After seven years with McCann, I was recruited away for a consumer insights/strategy position at Young and Rubicam after they won the Lincoln Mercury account. After that, Lee Iacocca fired Y&R and assigned the Chrysler account to Kenyon & Eckhardt. It was like a game of musical chairs.

I have fond memories of living and working in Detroit. My three children were born there, I started my career there and I was molded into the media, marketing and consulting professional that I am today because of consummate ad men who were smart, client driven and passionate about what they did for a living.

Years after I left to take a senior role at Andersen Consulting in Chicago, the car industry took a turn, the economy faltered, city politics fueled political fraud, and the city quickly was befallen with crime. It was sad to watch as the city deteriorated.

Admittedly, I thought the city would never return to its greatness.

Times are improving for Detroit. It has now exited bankruptcy/receivership; there is renewed vigor around its manufacturing prowess and the creative class (look up Shinola - an up and coming premium watch and bicycle company that is based in Detroit). Chrysler has promoted a bold advertising campaign launched two years ago with a now famous two-minute Clint Eastwood Super Bowl halftime spot with the theme “Imported from Detroit”. It is indeed a powerful spot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iXdsvgpwc8

Part of the turnaround is climbing out of its outmoded infrastructure, including an antiquated public lighting system. By 2012, over 40 percent of the 80,000 streetlights in Detroit were not functioning, leaving the troubled city mired in darkness. To compound the problem, much of the grid relied on a series of outdated circuits—if one transformer went out, every light in the series went dark. Simply, “keeping the lights on” was a pediment for law and order. Reduction of crime was a priority for the citizenship and the municipality.

In December 2012, the State of Michigan authorized the establishment of a Public Lighting Authority (PLA) to design and implement a modernization plan for Detroit’s street lighting system. Instead of working on their own, they partnered with CITI Bank in securing loans and infrastructure to rebuild the street lighting system. Part of the plan involved replacing more than 65,000 outmoded lights with new, energy-efficient LED bulbs. Here is the spot produced by CITI, http://bit.ly/1xWokBz

When corporations give back to their community in this way, it creates both advocacy among the consumer base, and a feeling of engagement from employees. These employees are more driven to work for a company that is actively creating a positive impact to society. This is especially pertinent for millennial audiences, who are highly motivated by corporate benevolence.

I’m happy that a turnaround is taking place in Detroit and I am thankful for corporations and sponsors like CITI who are making investments in this iconic, history rich city. Kudos to CITI, Ford, Chrysler, GM and Ford and all the advertisers who are making investments in Detroit’s future.