Inside the Mix

Minneapolis agencies back up buzz touting the area as a hub of creative, quality work

Minneapolis agencies back up buzz touting the area as a hub of creative, quality work

One advantage of having worked in the marketing trade press for nine years is the opportunity to see trends wax and wane over time.

Every so often, small hubs of activity emanate from a particular sector or geography, and the fun part of the job is getting to spot them and investigate further. To wit, a few years ago it seemed that all of the hot creative talent in the UK direct marketing industry was coming from New Zealand. At roughly the same time, all the cutting-edge commercial directors were coming from Sweden.

More recently, it seems that a lot of people have been talking about the Seattle outposts of PR and ad agencies being far more integrated and multidisciplinary than their other offices (including Publicis Dialog and DDB), and about the high quality of Minneapolis PR firms and the creative work they were producing.

En route to the Chicago roundtable a week-and-a-half ago, I stopped off in the Twin Cities area and visited a number of agencies to see if the anecdotal enthusiasm and creativity were tangible. Padilla Speer Beardsley was one agency that proved that there was clearly something different in the Minneapolis water supply - this primarily b-to-b agency showed as much color and innovation in describing a CEO transition project as it did talking about the launch of Berry Burst Cheerios. And while "head of drama" Tom Jollie (consumer products head) is known for turning cartwheels in the corridors, two other standout personalities belonged to the IR discipline (Marian Briggs) and technology (Matt Kucharski).

Other interesting firms in the city include The Maccabee Group - though it's perhaps not entirely surprising to find creative energy running rampant in a boutique shop owned by a former magician, Paul Maccabee - and Weber Shandwick. The latter's office a few miles outside the city, to which one is welcomed by a delightful lady trilling on a grand piano in the lobby, has less of a feeling of an agency giant's suburban outpost and more that of a self-contained firm with a hugely varied cast of personalities and talents. Web relations director David Krejci, for one, is someone who proves that those leading the online communications field need not live on a coast to make names for themselves.

Of course, the godfather of Twin Cities creativity is Carmichael Lynch Spong (CLS) managing partner Doug Spong. While other firms back up the buzz that surrounds the region, the work Spong's firm produces is likely what's behind that buzz in the first place. CLS is not just revered locally; as we come to the end of the PR awards season, its stature in the creativity stakes has been the talk of many a rubber chicken dinner.

It's hard to define why creative hubs pop up in various areas. Lynn Casey, PSB's CEO, thinks it might have something to do with the geography of the place - close enough to major cities to not be overlooked (and to have some decent-size client work), but far away enough to play the game differently. That the city has the country's third-largest GLBT population and is home to such companies as Target and others that have transcended their roots, such as General Mills, all adds to the excitement. Whatever the reason, people are definitely talking about the Twin Cities, and not just about the cold winters.

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