The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc. quietly released two television commercials last week aimed at changing the perception of the area, and the ad buy will ramp up this week on Washington and Baltimore cable systems.
The $1 million advertising campaign will also involve a print element in publications such as Vanity Fair in July. The partnership is currently working with website Buzzfeed to develop a new media campaign.
“We’ve been seeing that regional perceptions about downtown Baltimore are outdated. Even people who are familiar and live and work in the area don’t appreciate the degree that new investments, and increased employment, and residential density are changing downtown,” said Michael Evitts, Downtown Partnership of Baltimore’s vice president for communications.
Evitts said the ads will be strategically placed around a variety of programming, ranging from daytime talk shows to business news programs. All of the art direction, creative and media buying were done internally at the partnership. He said the organization is working with groups such as Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore and Live Baltimore that are also launching campaigns to help amplify the messaging.
The two new television ads follow a spot the partnership ran in the fall. One new ad, titled “Downtown Baltimore: A Bastion for the Inspired,” focuses on a growing arts scene and plays up the community’s “bohemian sensibilities.” The ad also goes on to describe downtown as “weird and wonderful.”
Another ad, “Downtown Baltimore: Quietly Thriving,” plays up the area’s ties to medical and educational institutions. The ad depicts the city as a magnet for “the best and brightest from around the globe.” The spot emphasizes that “so many people who work here during the day call Downtown Baltimore home at night.”
“We wanted to initiate a large marketing effort to rebrand perceptions about downtown, and the key is this rebrand is not aspirational. We feel this messaging will resonate because it reflects what’s actually happening on the ground,” Evitts said.
The effort to rebrand downtown comes as the area has recently shown renewed signs of life. For years downtown was considered a business district that lacked a strong residential component. But recent figures show the area as the fastest growing portion of Baltimore.
According to Downtown Partnership of Baltimore’s annual development report, there was $188 million in development projects in 2013 compared to $100 million in 2012. Overall, the volume of construction activity increased 50 percent year over year in the one-mile radius between Pratt and Light streets.
The organization also found that 60 percent of the people moving downtown are from outside of Maryland, that apartment occupancy rates are at about 95 percent and that downtown can absorb 5,600 new apartment units by 2017. There are currently 4,000 market-rate units in the pipeline.
“What we’re doing now is we’re galvanizing all of our messaging on this one central idea that downtown is a vibrant East Coast city with the quality of life that ranks up there and has proven very appealing in motivating business and residential growth,” Evitts said.