Since the success of last month’s G-20 summit, I’ve noticed a general shift in attitude toward Pittsburgh. The city’s rebirth is now recognized and celebrated throughout the world as the fruitful culture and economic prosperity continue to push it in a positive direction.
Simply put, Pittsburgh is on the map.
A few weeks ago, I even overheard a young couple discuss the possibility of vacationing in Pittsburgh. (I’m pretty sure they were drunk, but nonetheless, it happened.)
In order to capitalize on all this positive press and build off the media hype, we need to begin sharpening our selling points for Pittsburgh’s superiority.
We need an invigorating campaign to capture the hearts and mind of our friends in neighboring cities.
We need the perfect “Pittsburgh pitch.”
I’ve spent the last month working on a few ideas:
• “Pittsburgh, we have more rings than Saturn;”
• “Pittsburgh, the city with a bank at nearly every corner,”
• “Pittsburgh, at least we’re not Cleveland.”
Of course, longtime advertising executive and expatriate Pittsburgher Paul Brourman exercises a little more expertise with his Pittsburgh pitch.
That’s because at 45, Brourman has spent more than two decades in advertising and is now the president and chief creative officer of his own ad agency, Sponge.
“We create commercial ideas, creative concepts, develop them, and produce them,” says Brourman. It’s like “Mad Men,” but “without the antics and chauvinism.”
A 22-year resident of Chicago, Paul is a happily married man and father of two. He started Sponge three years after leaving his longtime employer and industry giant DDB.
“I wanted to build something new that could have major impact on brands,” says Brourman adding that Sponge’s eight-member team provides a “laboratory for fresh and new thinking and a freedom to attack the problems from new directions.”
At DDB, Brourman worked his way up to senior vice president and group creative director. His JCPenney campaign successfully reinvented the brand earning his client “2005 Marketer of the Year”.
Though his father is originally from Pittsburgh, Brourman spent his early years in Charlotte, N.C., before moving to Mt. Lebanon when he was 13.
“My uncle and family were all very involved in Tree of Life so we traveled up from Charlotte for my bar mitzvah,” says Brourman.
Soon after, he and his family made the permanent move.
Graduating from Mt. Lebanon High School in 1982, Brourman went on to study graphic design at Penn State. His first “entrée into the professional world” was at the advertising firm HBM-Creamer in Pittsburgh.
As an adult living in Shadyside, Brourman found Pittsburgh to be a very “accessible town.”
“I felt like I could be around family and build a career.”
However, after working on the company’s Iron City Light account, DDB recruited him to join its Anheuser-Busch campaign in Chicago, where he stayed for the next 18 years. During that time, his clients included McDonald’s, Discover Card and JCPenney.
Leaving DDB and forming his own agency took heavy planning and significant sacrifice, says Paul, who brought none of his DDB clients to the new firm.
Sponge, now nearing its third anniversary, has since built itself into a highly successful agency, landing reputable companies such as AutoZone, Sears Optical and Cracker Barrel.
So with all his experience, the obvious question is: What’s this ad exec’s Pittsburgh Pitch?
Brourman explains that he would try to bring the language and character to life in their own way.
Still missing the “warmth, the people and the character [of Pittsburgh],” Brourman says “we’d have to speak the language and capture the humanity that is uniquely Pittsburgh.”
Well, I’m sold.
(Jay Firestone, a Pittsburgh native and web editor for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, writes about Pittsburghers who now live somewhere else. He can be reached at email@example.com.)