The march of Silicon Valley giants – Twitter, Yelp, Google, and others – into San Francisco is generating polar opposite senses of urgency among long-time residents here: on the one hand, to speed up and keep current with new technologies and trends, and on the other, to slow down “gentrification” of the city’s wonderful creative and cultural diversity, as the tech-savvy, moneyed and younger generation become neighbours.
The giant firms are moving into San Francisco to attract the best talent of a younger generation who want a living experience that Silicon Valley simply cannot match in the bland flatlands of San Jose. Twitter, Facebook and Yelp opened their new headquarters in the city; Yahoo! is extending it offices here as well, and many hot startups have set up shop too: Airbnb, Dropbox, Uber, Square, and Pinterest. Even Google is branching up here. It is renovating an old printing plant for some of its workers just across the street from our advertising agency offices in the “SOMA” (South of Mission) area. It’s not a Google campus setting. In our neighborhood, the cultures of Latin America rub shoulders with hipsters, creative entrepreneurs, and artists in a proliferating scene of California cuisine and Latin American restaurants, pop-up exhibitions, art events, and galleries. “Googlers” as they are often called, we hope, will enjoy this potpourri as much as we do.
But the pendulum swings both ways. San Francisco’s city government has caught the fever of opposites, experiencing bouts of hot and cold. For one thing, government gives tax breaks to attract these giant firms. It hungers for jobs for long-time residents. TechSF, a quasi-governmental program, had us produce a video about their services which trains or re-trains San Franciscans in technology and media skills to compete for new job opportunities. Government is not on the tech bandwagon, it’s helping to push it.
On the contrary, government leaders express worry and work behind the scenes to smooth the change. They echo the concerns of long-time residents who complain about skyrocketing rents for housing that exclude lower income people. There is growing public resentment about enormous white “Google buses” navigating narrow neighborhood streets and using municipal bus stops to pick up hundreds of workers across the city, whisking them south to large, independent campuses in Silicon Valley. In a conciliatory gesture, Google recently announced major funding of transportation fares for underprivileged youth in San Francisco, thanks no doubt to City Hall’s negotiations.
But it is the physical proximity of tech firms and their people that seem to especially ramp up the excitement. “Geek Events”, informal gatherings of people interested in tech, are being held just down the street from our office, and they are growing in attendance and energy. We too as marketers love the latest versions of cool tools that are becoming better to use such as self-serve DSPs (demand side platforms) that provide our clients millions of impressions and inventory through multiple ad exchanges, using real-time bidding and in-depth targeting solutions. We also check out the latest inbound marketing solutions and marketing automation software – like Hubspot, Marketo, and Paradot – that integrate with CRM solutions such as Salesforce to nurture early leads through the sales cycles and beyond. Our favorites are emerging video production technologies which are not only fun and time-savers but help us to make richer products since we’re doing more video on the Internet to brand our clients. We’re definitely on this bandwagon too.
However, we are also deeply attracted by what is definitely not high tech. Recently we created four videos, titled Mission Stories to celebrate characters in our neighborhood called The Mission. We tell the stories of people in small businesses which we think are great examples of home-grown brands. There’s an Italian importer of food processing machines making pasta, guys in a photo studio marketing Civil War-era tin type prints on metal, a pair who teach rock climbing up a huge cement wall, and the owner of a boxing gym where women love to do intense boxing work outs.
These are the kinds of “low-tech” neighborhood characters and brands that we love. We hope that our new hi-tech neighbors will too.