Oh, hello:Detroit

hello:Detroit flash agency

Post written by Valerie Kurtz – a committed Detroiter but no longer a Frameworker. (We still like to keep in touch.)

When I tell people I’m from Detroit, I usually get one of two reactions: a blank stare and a cursory “Oh” followed by a quick topic change; or a negative knee jerk reaction no doubt fueled by the media, such as, “I wouldn’t want to go there” or, “is it as bad as they say?”

Nevertheless, I always try to be upbeat and focus on the good news from my hometown – the small city with a big city feel! Home of Motown! The Motor City! And the people. Always the people: the tough, gritty, salt-of-the-earth workers with big hearts, big smiles and pride in their city.

Recently, though, the more I talked the more I felt I wasn’t really living this story. Sure, I visit “The D” often and I have my favorite hangouts – I love the Detroit Tigers as much as the next Detroiter. But what was I doing to support my city and help it thrive? What could I do? As an account manager at a branding agency, how could I make a difference?

Then I noticed a call for applications for a new AdCraft initiative called hello:Detroit.

The idea was simple: 13 people in the industry, ranging from media to account folks to creatives, come together over the weekend of 27/28 July and create an advjust ertising campaign for a small Detroit startup business – in this case, cleaning company Detroit Maid. At the end, we all go home with smiles on our faces, proud of the work we’ve accomplished. They called it a flash agency.

I applied, eager to do my part but never really thinking I’d be chosen.

And then I was.

That’s when I realized I’d basically volunteered away my weekend – a weekend of sunshine, family time, relaxing time, napping time. My kids whined about me being away while I put on a smiling face. “It’s good to help small business in Detroit. I’m helping rebuild the city in my own small way. We should all be doing our part.”

I don’t think they bought it, and to be honest, I’m not sure I did either.

I began to question why I had committed my entire weekend to a stranger—to a city that most people saw as a decaying, has-been story of what once was. I questioned the ability of 13 strangers to come together and do anything productive. This type of work takes full-scale agencies months to complete. Who were we kidding?

Clearly I was going to have to change my perspective. Pronto.

Friday night arrived, and exhausted from the 40+ hours I’d already put in that week, I reluctantly drove down to AdCraft’s HQ (affectionately known as the AdPad).

What I found on the other side of the door were several welcoming faces; hands filled with my favorite locally-brewed beer (always a plus); and energy that I thought I’d lost somewhere around Wednesday afternoon.

Suddenly, I realized that what I was embarking on was much more than strategizing and marketing. These 13 people had all given up their sunny, restful weekends for the same reason: to use our skills to contribute to the Renaissance of Detroit; to help a small business thrive in a city that’s been forgotten, dismissed, and counted out a long time ago.

We were 13 strong and we were out to prove everyone wrong.

The weekend mainly consisted of a lot of notes, scribbles (some marketing-related, some not so much), brainstorming, sketching, strategizing, designing, easel paper EVERYWHERE; food EVERYWHERE, laughing, and of course, a lot of hard work.

We worked every minute that we were together, and wanting to remain true to the illusion that we were a “real” agency, put the 37-page presentation together at the very last minute. At the end we donned our “client clothes” and presented a brand footprint and strategy, media recommendations and tactics, along with a new logo and brand color palette to help bring this business to life.

As I was giving my part of the presentation, I looked across at the client, her staff, her friends, and the rest of my flash agency, and every single one of them had a wide smile. They were proud of us, and I was proud of us too.

Detroit is built on a foundation of doing. It’s about the people. Always the people. We are Detroiters. We take nothing, and we build it up: shaping, creating, polishing and shining, and at the end of it all, we have something pretty damn cool that we can be proud of.

Congratulations, Detroit Maid and all my flash agency co-workers. You are all Detroit-made.

Visit hello:Detroit and Detroit Maid on Facebook for more.


  • Detroit
  • Branding
  • Pro bono