No one ever said it was easy pleasing millennials – certainly not me, the equally opinionated Generation Xer. But I still get a sick kick out of watching baby boomers try to do it, kind of like watching former Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, with his dad bod decked out in his mom jeans, desperately try to talk “hip” to young voters on the campaign trail.
It’s a special kind of cringeworthy moment.
Unfortunately, the latest example of such cringeworthiness is coming from the boomer-led Greater Sacramento Economic Council. Last week, the organization released a snazzy marketing video in an attempt to sell our city to mobile young professionals, up-and-coming creatives and international investors.
The video, made with heavy involvement from millennials, is one of the first tangible components of a partnership between the economic council and its Bay Area counterpart to promote the region as one massive economy in hopes of keeping jobs and companies from moving out of state. On Sunday, for example, a delegation from the Bay Area, including San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, joined Sacramento business leaders and Mayor Darrell Steinberg at Golden 1 Center for the Kings game against the Golden State Warriors.
“We’re not just another place,” a narrator proclaims a little too seriously at the beginning of the video. “We’re not just another city. We’re a region – a mega-region of innovation. And we’re on the rise.”
Cue the slickly sliced together snippets of Golden 1 Center, Crocker Art Museum, Beale Air Force Base, students milling about Sac State, plates of delicious-looking food from some of Sacramento’s best restaurants and, for good measure, cars crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.
Never mind that about a minute of the more than two-minute video passes before a person of color from this incredibly diverse city speaks. Or that women, of any color, don’t get many starring roles.
#TapIntoTheVibe, the faceless male narrator of the video insists.
Is this formulaic video – and a separate, slightly cooler campaign to pass out individually painted cowbells to CEOs – really the best Sacramento can do to make our city look more appealing to millennials, thereby harnessing their creative ability to revamp and diversify our economy away from government jobs?
Sure, the message, both bold and confident, is a lot better than the sad inferiority complex that we had going on a few years ago, but what’s missing is the authenticity. Anybody who knows anything about pleasing millennials knows that authenticity is a must.
Thankfully, Steinberg seems to have been paying attention.
On Tuesday, the City Council will consider a plan that has a far better chance of making an impact. It’s called the Creative Economy Pilot Project and, with approval, the city will set aside $500,000 in grants for local arts projects. The money would come from the existing Innovation and Growth Fund, created by former Mayor Kevin Johnson.
For cash-starved artists, a half million dollars is a big chunk of change that could do a lot of good in Sacramento.
Imagine more neighborhood-based mural projects, like the one that covered a dozen or so midtown buildings with art.
Or rent subsidies for creative spaces, including more makerspaces for sharing tools and equipment. Imagine if Sacramento could pull off a half-dozen legal, up-to-code warehouses for artists, unlike the tinderbox Ghost Ship in Oakland where 36 people died in a fire last month.
Or a couple more music festivals along the lines of TBD Fest, which brought hundreds – if not thousands – of people from the Bay Area to Sacramento and West Sacramento to hear electronic dance music artists while stomping in the dirt.
Or more funky exhibits like Art Hotel, which proved to be so popular that people lined up hours before the doors opened just to get tickets to come back.
How many more millennials would be drawn to Sacramento then? My guess is plenty.
It’s still unclear exactly what types of creative projects would be funded, but the money will be used to make Sacramento “a platform for experimentation,” and to build new economic ecosystems around art, food and technology.
It may seem counterintuitive, but to attract young people from elsewhere, we must first invest in and empower the homegrown creative community that brought the city this far in the first place. They, not a slick video, are our best salespeople. Let’s hope the baby boomers in charge remember that.