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The Egotist Lands in Des Moines

Did you know Des Moines has an ad scene? In case you didn’t, let our pals at the Egotist Network provide their $.02 on the goings on at Iowa’s capital and most populous city. Take it away, gang.

Des Moines sits at the intersection of the next potential creative metropolis and creative indifference – with the indifference mostly driven by risk-adverse clients. Hell, we’re a farm state – so people’s idea of risk here is “should I plant my corn before the next rain storm gets here?”

The city continues to reel in awards and accolades from national media – almost on a weekly basis. One of the Best Places to Start a Business. One of the Best Places to Raise a Family. Most Economical Places to Live. If there’s a list with top 100 cities ranked lately, Des Moines is probably in the top 10. If you were here 10 years ago, you probably thought the place was as lame as Omaha. The place has changed – and is a pretty cool place to live if you like short commutes, high standard of living, low cost of living, safe neighborhoods and list of unique things to do. This is great PR to attract creatives and has also attracted a nice group of startups – especially in the tech area.


The creative scene is growing. There is a strong social media and networking environment – especially among the younger Gen Y crowd. The cool Pappajohn outdoor sculpture park (named for a local angel investment guru, not the pizza dude) leads you into downtown with world famous sculptures on display. An eclectic, lively downtown nightlife anchored at one end by the revitalized Court Avenue district and on the other by the former warehousey, now hub for creative urban hipsters – the East Village – is linked to the new Principal Riverwalk bridge. The social media vibe in Des Moines is also very strong.

Meredith, one of the largest media and magazine conglomerates in the world, continues to spin its wheels, having recently laid off 75 people when they shut down one of their marginally successful magazines. That means there are a ton of outstanding graphic designers, writers and photographers always buzzing between a new gig at Meredith, one of the ad agencies in town – or starting up their own studios. Because of this, the advertising world here is centered around print and graphic design.

-Flynn-Wright recently announced they were moving into new digs – with a view of the sculpture park downtown. They continue to have a quirky creative style that keeps them rolling with clients like Mediacom and MidAmerican Energy.

-Innova.
Doing work for a national brand like Foursquare doesn’t suck.

-Integer Group
, the big shop in town and the only branch office for one of the multi-nationals, coddles some of the state’s big clients – including Iowa Tourism and Economic Development and Pella Corp.

-Lessing-Flynn
, historically a quiet, unassuming ag shop. They seem to have recently come out of their shell and landed a few nice pieces of business – including Iowa Corn and local financial Bankers Trust.

-Local brand gurus at McClellan Marketing Group, some of the first in town to blog and do the social media gig, have made a name for themselves in brand consulting circles. And they bake their own cookies.

-The Meyocks Group
maintains its cozy relationship with regional grocery behemouth Hy-Vee (for some time, Hy-Vee held a majority ownership in the agency, not sure if that’s still the case). They have quietly cranked out some good work of late.

-Saturday Manufacturing
, the new, up-and-comer on the scene, seems to be landing some cool assignments of late – including 80/35 music festival.

-Strategic America
continues to teeter on the brink of being a legitimate mid-sized regional shop and a larger local shop. Doing regional business for companies like Wendy’s gives them some nice visible work to tout when they get into pitch mode for other regional work. A strong PR team seems to be winning them some nice PR gigs.

-Trilix
took a hit recently with the loss of some of the World Pork Expo business that they handled for several years. They’ve seen a few talented people leave in recent months, but they seem to have successfully reloaded with some new talent.

Following the tragic plane crash that killed their founder and three other employees a few years ago, Two Rivers sold to a communications company based in eastern Iowa. They seem to like their niche in the construction industry – and have weathered the storm of a disastrous economy.

ZLR Ignition
, an annual contender for local creative awards, continues to put out some really nice work for Iowa State University. They’ve been hit by recent moves by the state to thrash funding for anti-smoking campaigns. The fallout on that is still to be seen.
The biggest challenge with the local market is the inferiority complex that some of the larger clients give the creative community by taking their business to larger markets like Kansas City. Plus, local advertisers are overly satisfied with station-produced radio and tv – giving local shops fewer opportunities to demonstrate how good creative can make the cash register ring. The Des Moines Egotist is hoping to help both of these things change.

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