Posted by: BayAreaComRE | November 17, 2010

San Francisco’s Storied Advertising and Marketing Industry Writes a New Chapter

San Francisco has a rich history of advertising that has defined Jackson Square for decades, but as the advertising industry adjusts to the changing landscape of marketing, so have their offices. From start-ups to the big timers, SoMa and the Financial District house more ad firms than the once bustling Jackson Square.

The old school is meeting the new school in advertising, and the dynamic of the industry is emblematic of the office space they occupy. The traditional firms are being met with techy firms like AKQA, Mekanism, Pereira & O’Dell who call SoMA home. The ‘downtowners’ like Eleven, Duncan Channon, Godfrey Q & Partners, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, AgencyTwoFifteen, to name a few, like to be near the action but still seek out the creative vibe in their office space.

While there are some firms that are growing in Jackson Square and North Waterfront, like Heat and Dojo, the majority of new ad men have gravitated South.

The dynamic of advertising firms is changing to align with consumers, and consumers are shifting to the Internet, social media and mobile. The Don Drapers and the old school ad firms have long ago gone extinct, and in their replacement the new ad men and women can be found South of Market amongst the tech crowd.

AKQA has been growing their headquarters on King Street for almost as long as the ball park has been here. Their CEO says they are more like a software developer with engineers working into the late hours of the night. Their space includes exposed ceilings, a mural of San Francisco, game consoles (to test the latest Xbox game they marketed, of course) and the senior executives work in modest sized offices.

PJ Pereira & Andrew O’Dell, who both came from AKQA, started their firm, Pereira & O’Dell on 2nd street and their office space can easily be mistaken for a tech startup. They won Small Ad Agency of the Year by Advertising Age on the heels of digital campaigns for LEGO. Oh ya, and did we mention these guys run a bar right next door…

“The agency also has its own bar, the BarrelHouse, where it hosts events for clients and charitable causes (over 50 in the last two years alone). Pereira explained the bar is meant “to bring something back to the community that needed some cheering in the middle of this recession.” The agency’s management approach for their on-site saloon is rather creative: “The BarrelHouse events cost us nothing – we donate the space, our clients donate the drinks, the bands play to raise money for a charity they chose, our guests are just guests, no one pays anything, but we raise quite a lot of money.” Online All Stars 2010: PJ Pereira.

An entirely new breed of advertising has emerged. Companies now wheel and deal with banner ads on ad networks and  collect information about consumers from social media and geo-location check-ins. Advertising campaigns are designed to go viral on YouTube, not “The Tube.”  A more technical approach to advertising draws techy employees and calls for techy office space, which is why you see RapLeaf on Mission street and Evolution Bureau in SoMa.

On the other end of the advertising spectrum (and across Market Street) you take a stroll through Jackson Square and North Waterfront, you will notice some of the same cast of characters. Chuck McBride (creative mind behind Got Milk commercials and most recently Ray Ban) offices in the storied brick buildings on the North Waterfront along with Weiden + Kennedy, Hal Riney  along with the many marketing and advertising firms populating the surrounding areas of Levis Plaza.

Our point isn’t that one side is wrong and other side is right. Rather, there is a fragmentation of the industry and the decline of the agencies that traditionally led SF advertising such as FCB and J Walter Thompson is highlighted by the emergence of the modern advertising firms and their new office locations. San Francisco is still a advertising-rich city of great ad people, and they are fitting in quite nicely in their new hoods.

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