Report From a San Diego Agency

NYCA CEO: Fires Won't Hinder City's Spirit, Business

By Published on .

Packed up and ready to evacuate.
Packed up and ready to evacuate.
As you've seen from the recent media coverage, life is hard in San Diego.

It's a wonderful place to visit and I'm not saying that because our agency, NYCA, is fortunate enough to have the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau account.

In San Diego it's always 72 degrees and sunny. We always wake to a sky the blue of childhood paintings. But as I write this, fires have already burned over 340,000 acres. That's 532 square miles, an area larger than the city of Los Angeles. And they're still raging.

San Diego's palm trees sashay along our streets and freeways, waving "Have a nice day" in those trade winds. Year 'round we swim, fish, surf, golf, hike, bike and board.

The consistency of natural pleasantness is at the core of why we live here. New York is money, L.A. is entertainment, Vegas is sin. San Diego is nature. Sun, ocean, mountains, beach. Nature puts on a 24/7 talent show here, displaying the planet's finest geographic genes.

But when you live here for nature and nature turns on you, where do you go?

What did we do when those police calls mandated we evacuate? Exactly what they'd do in New York and Chicago. We looked around at what we loved and had built and made instant decisions of what comes and what stays behind. We texted, emailed, filled our cars with gas and drove to places said to be safe until the fires changed their minds and those places were no longer safe. Then we got back in our cars packed with the things that matter -- our families, pets, hard drives, photos -- and raced the 90 mph winds that made it too dangerous for helicopters to fly over and dump their highly effective fire-killing chemicals.

We called clients around the country and acted brave for our children. Our receptionist slept in her car for two nights with her two bunnies, two cats and her fiancé when the evacuation facilities overflowed. Some violated orders by sneaking back to see if they still had houses. Our head of production camped out in one of the agency's conference rooms with her two-year old. We slipped our pets into human-only hotels: our planning director somehow got five animals into her room -- not including her kids. And at night we worked online and on our cells because business needed tending to. (Luckily, San Diego is the 4th most wired city in the country.) And we prayed for the 6,703 firefighters who saved our lives.

How did the fires change us? Well, at NYCA we now have an emergency plan to speed communications and evacuation. Other than that, the fires' light revealed what we always knew: how strong we are. And that we are going to keep growing our families, our businesses and build our reputation among the best agencies in the best cities in the world.

So if you're a CMO looking for agencies tough enough to overcome natural disasters and talented enough to build your brands even in the most challenging business environments, come visit and bring your accounts. Though you'd never know it from national trades, San Diego has 85 communication firms doing strategically and creatively innovative work for clients around the country to the tune of over $350 million in billings.

And the weather is almost always great and the business climate is perfect.

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Michael Mark is standing on his flame-retardant soapbox on behalf of the brilliant and strong-hearted marketing community of San Diego. He is the creative director and CEO of NYCA.
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