Doug Reichardt, Suku Radia, Laura Hollingsworth, Barry Griswell, Shannon Cofield, Steve Lacy and Martha Willits say Greater Des Moines is No. 1. Photo submitted
Doug Reichardt, Suku Radia, Laura Hollingsworth, Barry Griswell, Shannon Cofield, Steve Lacy and Martha Willits say Greater Des Moines is No. 1. Photo submitted

In case you haven’t heard, some people think the Des Moines area is an all-right place in which to live, work and play. Lauren Burt, the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s director of media and marketing, wants you to see the big picture.

Last week, the Partnership rolled out a community marketing campaign intended to highlight the metropolitan area’s recent positive rankings from national media outlets.

Earlier this year, Forbes magazine said Des Moines is the No. 1 place for business and careers. That publication also said the metro area is “America’s Best Place to Raise a Family.” And Mainstreet.com called Iowa one of the happiest states in the nation.

The Partnership is showing off those accolades with the installation of large images of local leaders on the buildings, buses and skywalks that people pass by every day.

“We thought it was a way to put real faces of the community on this advertisement, because they are the reason behind these rankings,” said Burt, who conceived the promotion at the behest of the Partnership’s economic development board.

The advertisements, which feature the likenesses of Shannon Cofield, J. Barry Griswell, Laura Hollingsworth, Steve Lacy, Suku Radia, Doug Reichardt and Martha Willits, were installed downtown Oct. 8 at the Younkers building, Capital Square, a bus shelter and a skywalk bridge near Nollen Plaza.

On Monday, six Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority buses will don the placards, which will help spread the Partnership’s messages throughout the metro area. The campaign is expected to last about six months.

Parady Boatwright, Hillary Brown, Garret Cornelison, Mary Cownie and Van Holmgren are among a number of young professionals also featured in the ads.

“I really wanted a full scope of people,” Burt said of the models she chose to represent a variety of professions, communities and styles.

Burt’s primary goal is to use “disruptive marketing” to promote what she calls the “happy economics” of Des Moines.

The images aren’t intended to cause car accidents, but Burt expects residents and visitors to slow down, pay attention and tell their friends.

“My ideal is to have the public gain knowledge as well as inspiration from the campaign,” she said. “To make our message strong, we must first inspire the community and have them spread our message to others in their community, as well as when they are traveling, for business or personally.”

And given that downtown development is one of the Partnership’s main objectives, drawing attention to vacant buildings is a good thing.

“Not only will this campaign create community awareness of our great business climate and quality of life,” Burt said, “it will also attract people to view the vacant spaces as possible new opportunities and will hopefully increase development of vacant spaces in the metro.”

Working with a $10,000 budget, Burt said a lot of coordination was required to pull off the project. She had to get approvals from Ruhl & Ruhl Commercial Co, the city of Des Moines and others in order to display the materials.

Anna Jones, a local photographer, snapped the pictures. Grimes-based Image Transform Ltd. handled the printing and installations. Ikonix Studio donated the use of its studio space. The ads were designed by Burt and Holly Baumgartel, the Partnership’s graphic designer.

Burt, 27, is especially excited about the collaborative nature of the project.

“I really like the fact that I could work with the city,” she said. “I had to get clearance for the skywalks; that is not something they usually do. Everyone was very collaborative on this and really excited about it.”

Phase two of the community marketing project will kick off closer to the holiday shopping season with a paid ad at Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines. The campaign’s third and final phase will include the placement of posters in public buildings, including community libraries across the metro area.

“It reaches from downtown to the suburbs,” Burt said, adding “We are inundated with so many messages in the media. We have to find ways to be cutting edge and more creative.”