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San Fran’s $4M Pro-Business Ad Blitz Wins Mixed Reviews

A $4 million advertising campaign backed by San Francisco business leaders may or may not restore the city’s recently tarnished brand, but it has already sparked an array of reactions.

As The New York Times reports, the slogan for the campaign is “It All Starts Here.” Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ Rich Silverstein, who designed the campaign for pro-business nonprofit Advance SF, told the newspaper the motto gestures toward San Francisco’s trend-setting history—from the Gold Rush to the Summer of Love and on through to the tech boom—as well as the idea that reviving the city’s reputation “[has] to start somewhere.”

A bartender and a bookstore owner, however, each told The Times they didn’t understand the meaning of the slogan behind the placards brought to their businesses. Kyle Rios-Merwin of branding agency Born & Bred said he would have preferred to see more emphasis on the city’s compassionate approach to solving its much-publicized issues. Kevin Gammon of branding agency Teak said that while Silverstein’s firm was “legendary,” the current campaign lacked a clear target.

UberAs The Wall Street Journal reports, Bay Area-born companies adding their names to the effort include Uber, Levi Strauss and Pixar. Advance SF, the group behind the ads, is mainly sponsored by fintech billionaire Chris Larsen and Gap Chairman Bob Fisher. Silverstein clarified that he wasn’t out to sugar-coat anything. “It’s not a tourist campaign where I go, ‘everything’s great,’” Silverstein told the newspaper. “No, I wanted to talk about the truth, and the truth is—if you ever had an idea for a company, or a new idea in general, it probably happened here.”

As Axios reports, while San Francisco’s downtown recovery rate after the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic may have been exaggerated, the city has an opioid epidemic and a homelessness crisis. The mayor, London Breed, recently told The New Yorker, “A lot of it is a perception problem.”

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