Few American cities have attracted the attention of industries across the board the way San Francisco and Silicon Valley have over the last decade. Even those who have never set foot on the West Coast look to the area as a hotbed for innovation and creativity -- an almost mythical place where hoodie-wearing 20-somethings become billionaires overnight and businesses live or die by their ability to see into the future.
While this Odyssey-like siren song has attracted countless creative types to the shores of the Bay Area, eager to ride the wave of inspiration and land a job with the "next big thing," it seems that one important player has missed the boat -- media agencies. While many media companies have satellite offices in the region, the lack of a strategic leadership presence is stifling their growth, innovation and reputation. While some agencies might try to rationalize their aversion to the West Coast, they're overlooking the fact that beyond the hype, this is a place where we as media executives can have a seat at the table and where the products and the future of our industry are being defined and activated.
Here are four reasons why media agencies need to head to the West Coast:
1. This is where the future happens first. Our clients expect us to know what's happening in media and technology right now, but our real value is being able to guide them toward what's happening next. There's no place where people are as obsessed with innovation and the future as they are in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and after spending some time here, you learn to discern between what's rumor and what's actually going to change the game for your clients.
Many products are first tested here locally before they reach the broader market, giving us the chance to gain early insight into how they will be adopted by consumers. This first-mover advantage also means we have prime ability to smartly use the data behind the development of these new tools and leverage insights to make strategic connections for our clients. And, perhaps what is most important for our line of work is rubbing shoulders with the product leadership at companies like Google and Twitter, placing us at the forefront of media when developing and creating ideas for our targeted audiences.
2. The ability to attract top talent. Free food at Facebook aside, San Francisco and the Bay Area draw great talent because this is a bastion of innovators and free-thinkers who are changing the world through tech each and every second of the day. As a CEO, this is exactly the type of talent pool I'm looking to tap into when I build my teams. Sure, competition for top talent is stiff and it's not exactly easy to go up against the likes of Uber and Google when luring potential hires, but media agencies must not forget that not every smart, talented candidate out west is looking for a tech job. Many of these people would love to work in our world, too.
3. Things are actually made here. The magnetic pull of the area draws not just talent, but investors looking to fund big ideas. While Madison Avenue will probably always be the hub for advertising and selling, San Francisco is where things are made. Physical and digital products. Media platforms. Life-changing technology. The market is turbocharged. The access to the brains, innovators and creatives behind these creations is what makes the West Coast a strategic location for media companies.
4. Simply put, the quality of life is awesome. This may not be exactly "media" related, but the quality of life offered on the West Coast encourages great creative minds to stay and build a life. Where else can you leave your house and be in the mountains, wine country and several epic national parks within a few hours? There's also a thriving culinary scene both within the city and the suburbs, supplying everything from high-end dining to amazing taco trucks. It never snows and there is no denying the physical beauty of the natural landscape that makes you wake up every day glad you live where you do.
Our job as media professionals is to fully understand new digital tools and platforms and to understand how to add value for consumers. If media agencies are truly committed to innovation and its significance in culture, they must have a foothold in the place where innovation is a way of life. That place is the Bay Area.