Boston taps local Black-led agency to paint the city in a more inclusive light
The city of Boston wants to boost tourism and the local economy’s recovery from COVID-19 by making its popular image more all-inclusive, all with help from a new marketing campaign cooked up by local advertising and brand agency Proverb.
The campaign, called “Boston All Inclusive,” wants to fight racism and discrimination by featuring small business owners and residents who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. Proverb hopes the campaign will provide an alternative narrative to the stereotypes of Boston by creating an alternative story that is more inclusive and amplifies previously lesser-heard groups of people.
“The narrative built around the city over decades isn’t going to go away, but this campaign begins to create an additional narrative or narratives for people to tell more stories,” says Daren Bascome, founder and managing director of Proverb, a Black-led advertising and brand agency. The stories featured in the campaign aim to drive visitors to traditionally overlooked businesses and neighborhoods, particularly those that were hit hardest by the pandemic.
Bascome acknowledges having a campaign take on both racism and the pandemic-fueled downturn is a tall order. The campaign’s first goal will be to kickstart local tourism. “Our first audience is for people who are here, contemplating a staycation, or as simple as who you want to order takeout from,” says Bascome. The campaign also hopes to attract people within driving distance of Boston, including from the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut tri-state area.
For Bascome, who moved to Boston over 30 years ago and built both a family and a business in the city, the assignment was personal. “The spaces, faces and places that historically have led with the imagery of the city, especially when we look at popular culture, hasn’t always been our friend,” he says, citing movies, shows, and jokes about the city. When Proverb commissioned a market study to gauge how visitors perceive Boston, he says much of it didn’t come as news. “There was a sizeable gap between the city’s perceptions and the reality of the city we have come to know.”
“Boston has dealt with a unique stigma,” writes Martha J. Sheridan, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We own that narrative but we also need to shift it. We have the cultures and communities here to tell a broader and more authentic Boston story that has traditionally been marginalized.” She adds that this played into the bureau’s decision to seek a local agency to help tell the story. “We’ve let other people tell our story for us, and as destination marketing specialists it is our job to correct that.”
To help capture the spirit of the city from the point of view of minorities and people of color, the campaign features a diverse list of partners, photographers, typographists and narrators. The campaign is eschewing typical colors like red, white and blue in favor of a palette meant to evoke the colors of Boston, like red bricks, cobblestones, and the color of leaves in the fall.
The campaign is meant to increase what Bascome says is “spacial justice,” creating the feeling that the entire city belongs to them through representation. He says it’s part of the drive for greater inclusion and social justice currently facing the nation. “We really tried to create something that speaks to the moment we’re in both as a city and as a country.” says Bascome.