Detroit Shopping Center Offers Glimmer of Hope With Upbeat Campaign

Somerset Collection Ads Spotlight Local Institutions, Attempt to Boost Pride in City

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NEW YORK ( -- As headlines blare the imminent demise of the auto industry and the world watches the drama in Washington unfold, an upscale Detroit-area shopping destination is running a feel-good campaign about Motor City.

Somerset Collection, a property operated by Southfield, Mich.-based The Forbes Company, is running a holiday campaign meant to foster local pride and further brand the center as the area's premier shopping destination. The campaign, dubbed "You Belong Here," was created by Moorestown, N.J.-based Panzano & Partners. It features stylishly clad models making their way around Detroit landmarks such as the Fox Theater, the Detroit Institute of Arts and Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford. General Motors' logo even captures a few seconds of screen time.

Commercials are running on local affiliates of NBC and ABC, and print ads are featured in the center's glossy holiday book. The value of the media buy is about $500,000, said Linda McIntosh, director-marketing for Somerset Collection.

An evolving Detroit
"Despite the challenging economic times, metro Detroit continues to evolve," said Nathan Forbes, managing partner of The Forbes Co. "'You Belong Here' was created to highlight the vibrancy of the area, as well as to spotlight its iconic institutions and natural landmarks, while aiming to rekindle a sense of pride."

Development of the campaign began in July, well before the depth of the auto industry's woes was known. But even as the situation in Motor City deteriorates further, executives are sticking with the campaign; in fact there are plans to carry the "You Belong Here" theme into next year. "We really feel that now is the best time to celebrate Detroit," said Ms. McIntosh. "I can not find one negative comment about the campaign."

"When you get very close to a brand -- and Detroit in and of itself is a brand -- people tend to forget about all of the nuances and heritage and diversity of the area," added Bill Rubino, partner at Panzano & Partners. "People focus on the big stories and forget about everything else."

Fighting pessimism
Even so, could it be unseemly to urge spending in a market where thousands are set to lose their jobs? Chris Donnelly, a partner in Accenture's retail practice, thinks not. "Certainly some communities are more challenged than others and the Detroit area is one of them," he said. "An attempt to generate some sort of local pride or optimism -- it's hard to fault that. Whether it will be successful is another story. But you have to do something to combat the pessimism in Detroit and southeastern Michigan."

Ms. McIntosh admits that the retail environment is tough and shoppers are more cautious. But she maintains that shops at the center, including Baccarat, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci and Ralph Lauren, are largely performing in line with the rest of their respective companies. "To not be doing any worse [than the rest of their company] is a strong statement, especially now because of the news," she said, adding that none of the mall's 180 shops and restaurants have shuttered their doors this year.

She is also quick to point out that even if customers aren't purchasing big-ticket items, smaller purchases are also important to its retailers and restaurants. "If people want to just come and visit our holiday display or have a cup of coffee and stroll and browse, that's what we're here for" she said. "We sell coffee and lipstick, but we also sell great handbags."

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