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The Concerned: We're not wild about Anchorage's new PR campaign

  • Author: Scott Woodham
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published November 20, 2011
Subject: You're #1

Dear Seymour,

We The Concerned haven't seen much of you lately, so we thought we'd check in, see how things are. Good we hope. Listen, we're not sure how much you pay attention to other ad campaigns that tout Anchorage, but you've got some new competition. Since We The Concerned are your biggest fans, we thought we should at least give you a heads up.

The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation has rolled out a new advertising campaign apparently promoting the city to people who may be thinking about fleeing some of the various recession-ravaged parts of the Lower 48 and relocating their families or businesses to Anchorage. The campaign is called "Live. Work. Play."

Which at first kind of confused us. Cities across the U.S. have their own "Live. Work. Play." campaigns, places like Columbus, Denver, Detroit, Raleigh, Downtown L.A., Fort Myers, Palm Beach, Savannah, and even the entire state of Idaho. Michigan even added "Learn" to the list.

And the connection is no coincidence. A former bureaucrat from Milwaukee told one trade magazine he first heard those three little words in a 1986 election when a county candidate was pitching new waterslides for the city parks. Since then, people have been using the vague terms to stand in for a variety of mixed-use commercial development projects and urban-renewal projects.

Live Work Play started as an offshoot slogan for the New Urbanism, a concept seeking to limit urban sprawl and return people to neighborhoods with employment, residence and recreation opportunities within walking distance. Which necessarily means density if it follows a key tenet and doesn't build on undisturbed land. But it doesn't always turn out that way because, as every aspiring city knows, vacant land is for the birds.

Intensified building has been happening all over Anchorage over the last 10 years, even without a snazzy new development campaign. Heck, Midtown should probably be renamed "Downtown Jr." at this point, and the city's proposed Title 21 zoning and land-use code revisions haven't even been hashed out yet. Luckily, according to the ADEC, Anchorage's new logo was designed "entirely pro bono" by a local advertising firm.

In fact, if limiting sprawl to a few intensely developed community nodes is the goal, Whittier should be the national poster child for Live Work Play.

The campaign videos for Live Work Play in Anchorage feature lovely young Alaskans talking about how much they love living in Alaska's largest city. One person loves how it's "minutes" away from some of "the world's best trout fishing," and another loves the snowmachining. Another the mountain biking. There's even an awesome segment of a kid doing a kick-flip on his skateboard down the steps at the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau's downtown headquarters.

Not than Anchorage isn't an awesome place to live, but basically none of the world's greatest trout fishing is within an hour's drive from Anchorage. Even the urban salmon fishing isn't that great. It's just close. Snowmachining isn't allowed at all within Anchorage proper. And doing skateboard tricks at the entrance of the ACVB is practically begging for a ticket from the municipal authorities.

As great as we The Concerned think it would be to get an infusion of new Anchorageites who are interested in working, living and playing, we're afraid they'll be a little disappointed if they put too much stock in the images they see in the new campaign. Or worse yet, if they import a bunch of ideas about what those three little words should mean. When people see you representing our aspiring city, they know exactly what they're getting themselves into: Moose that now and then break into song or strike an elegant pose. And that's what we'll always love about you.

We hope this doesn't disappoint you too much, but this new campaign doesn't feature a single moose, or any wildlife for that matter. There's no mention of bears on the trails around the city, and not a single squirrel, crab or musk ox dances in top hat and tails.

One of the things we most appreciate about you is that you don't take yourself as seriously as other town mascots. But there is nothing resembling that in the new ads; even the soundtrack seems to take itself seriously. So even as concerned as we are that the city dropped a chunk of change on an ad campaign that practically every other mid-level city in the U.S. is already using, we're very concerned the ads will attract people without any sense of humor. Joyless people who prefer looking at metal, concrete and glass rather than the Chugach Range. Or worse, Darrell and Debbie Downers who may not be enticed by a cartoon wildlife chorus line and ultra-catchy jingle.

Speaking of which, we The Concerned are often struck with pangs of nostalgia for the classic, CLIO award-winning, "Wild about Anchorage" ad from the ACVB in 1981. You know the one, right? It's where we believe you first captivated us. We've attached it below just in case you've forgotten. Even to this day many of us sing, "Wild! ... Wild about Anchorage..." for no particular reason. And nothing can change our minds.

That advertisement for Anchorage is getting more than 30 years of value for the investment, and it's still got a strong cult following. As much as we hope Live Work Play pays off a similar return, we'd really just be happy knowing what those words mean to developers and city planners.

You'll always be number one to us,
The Concerned
P.S. We can't get enough of this:
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