SAN FRANCISCO – Oakland is a city on the rise and it just won’t take any more slights. No more references to it having “no there there.” No more stereotypes as a crime-plagued city. And, please, stop the unflattering comparisons to its famous neighbor across the Bay.
San Francisco is not all that, after all. And to prove it, the city of Oakland has launched an ad campaign that points out the “ills” of its friendly rival.
“Tired of living where the sun don’t shine?” asks an ad displaying the city of Oakland symbol atop a San Francisco cab.
“San Francisco is the place to be ... overcharged for rent,” reads another ad at the Oakland airport.
“It’s a tongue-in-cheek campaign that brings to light the virtues of Oakland,” said Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. “San Francisco takes itself very seriously. We in Oakland don’t.”
“San Francisco is a great city, I grew up there,” he added. “But they are the first to get the fog and the last one to get the sun.”
Launched in March, the advertising campaign is expected to last a year. The ads are being published in local newspapers, spread throughout Oakland and displayed around San Francisco on taxi cabs.
Oakland officials see the campaign as a way to compete for business, and as an opportunity to narrow the gap between how the city is perceived and its reality.
“We hope to demonstrate to folks that Oakland has a lot to offer as a place to live, work and do business,” said Samee Roberts, Oakland’s marketing manager.
In the past, Oakland has been identified as a city with high crime rates and unemployment. Author Gertrude Stein once said that Oakland — where she spent her childhood — was a city with “no there there.”
Oakland has taken steps to become a bustling business center.
The advertising campaign is part of a larger development plan the city put in motion in 1999 to attract investment, Roberts said.
Among other things, Oakland is investing $1.2 billion in port development projects, $1.5 billion to expand its airport and an estimated $250 million to further revamp its waterfront.
Oakland’s efforts are paying off.
Census figures show its population grew by 7 percent in the 1990s, making Oakland the eighth-largest city in California.
Its port is now the nation’s fourth busiest and, in the last couple of years, some 300 new companies moved to Oakland, bringing along 10,000 jobs. Forbes magazine this year ranked Oakland as the nation’s 10th-best place for “business and careers.”
“Any time you are in the shadow of a bigger city you struggle to find your own identity,” Roberts said. “Sometimes you have to be a little bold to get your point across.”
This time the boldness came courtesy of Young and Rubicam, a San Francisco advertising firm that is working for the city of Oakland pro bono.
“We wanted to bring attention to the misperception that Oakland is a place to avoid,” said Stephen Creet, Young and Rubicam’s executive creative director. “We were not trying to be mean-spirited. It just seemed logical to get the attention of people who live in San Francisco first.”
The next step will be to get the attention of a national audience. In October, the ads will appear in business magazines throughout the country.
For their part, San Francisco officials are not worried and have not paid much attention to the sassy ad campaign.
“We have not seen the ads,” said P.J. Johnson, spokesman for Mayor Willie Brown. “When another city has to point to your city to draw comparison, it’s really a form of flattery more than anything.”