Do More

Justin Cremer

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City's marketing campaign an insult to young professionals

Constantly trying to 'sell' Des Moines is a sign of its ever-present inferiority complex (Photo: Iowahwyman)

Originally published in the Des Moines Register - November 29, 2006

“Sure you could work your way to the top. But that’d be like . . . well . . . work. Schmooze.”


“Spend half your paycheck shopping. Sure, why not?”


“Party. Whatever you do, do more of it in Des Moines.”


These are just some of the gems rolled out as part of the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s new “Do More” marketing campaign. Apparently the powers that be in Des Moines are under the impression that 'lazy' and 'irresponsible' are synonymous with 'hip' and 'urban'.

As a 28-year-old who returned to Des Moines after a long absence, I would be considered among the primary targets of this new campaign. But after attending the launch Monday night at the Science Center, I came away decidedly unimpressed.


First, let me say that Des Moines has changed and improved dramatically over the last decade, and the Partnership deserves a lot of credit for that. After four years in Denver and one in Copenhagen, I expected Des Moines to be a letdown in every possible way, but the Des Moines I returned to is different than the one I knew growing up and I enjoy living here. If as much changes in the next five years as have in the last, Des Moines will be where it wants to be. It may never be a major metropolis or a destination that draws people from afar, but so what?


This new marketing campaign seems to be another sign of Des Moines’ inferiority complex. Des Moines constantly tries to oversell itself and I find it pathetic. When I first moved back, I remember seeing ads for the East Village (which was nonexistent when I left) marketing itself as "Like Greenwich Village in New York City — but on a smaller scale." Sherman Hill is always "historic" and/or "vibrant" and Court Avenue is no normal street. It is an “Entertainment District.” Parts of town not separated by more than a few blocks all have these slick names. Gateway West. Riverpoint. I can walk from East Village through the Downtown Business District to Sherman Hill in 30 minutes - do we really need these distinctions? 


I don’t understand why Des Moines can’t just be Des Moines. Why roll out an expensive campaign to get people to move here? Let’s face it: if not for having family in the area or getting a job transfer, large numbers of people are not going to seek out Des Moines as a destination (unless they are coming from elsewhere in Iowa). Videos showing a guy drinking coffee straight from the pot are not going to have people flocking here, nor are shirts telling people to “Caffeinate.”


Why not spend this marketing money on getting some of things Des Moines really needs? A grocery store and a movie theater are still sorely missing downtown.


I truly appreciate the effort to make Des Moines more appealing, but that effort should be aimed at those already living here. Putting out a campaign full of slogans that insult the intelligence of its residents is not the way to do it.

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