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Downtown Cedar Rapids is sorry (not sorry) in 'Downtown Cedar Rapids Sucks' video lark

'Edgy' promotion takes on downtown's nemesis

Downtown Cedar Rapids on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Downtown Cedar Rapids on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Downtown Cedar Rapids sucks ... or does it?

An “edgy” marketing campaign launched this week entitled “Downtown Cedar Rapids Sucks” leans on irony in hopes audiences react with the opposite conclusion. The social media campaign features the hashtag “DTCRSucks,” a fast-moving 68-second video and the website, dtcrsucks.com.

“When people are scrolling through social media, you only get a couple of seconds to grab people’s attentions,” said Jesse Thoeming, executive director of the Downtown District, which is behind the video. “We wanted to create something that would generate a response and not something that is cookie cutter.”

The Downtown District, which is overseen by the downtown Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District and is an arm of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, hired Fusionfarm to produce the campaign. The Gazette and Fusionfarm have the same parent company, Folience.

The campaign will feature a series of videos and themes released over the next several months.

The one introduced Sunday is intended to capture the spirit of urban living and the amenities at your finger tips in downtown Cedar Rapids, said Ellen Bardsley, a communications specialist at the Economic Alliance.

“Late night fried chicken. Refueling at the local coffee shop instead of the pump. Allllll the Crunch Berry smells wafting through your bedroom window. Walking out your front door to the hottest show in town. Fresh air morning commute on two wheels, not four. Balcony views of the Cedar River,” the website states. “Yeah … it all sucks.”

The video starts out blasting the slogan “Downtown Cedar Rapids Sucks” in bold type followed by a woman who asks, “Really?”

A sequence of clips jumps from Cap’n Crunch cereal to a man eating an overloaded jelly sandwich to fried chicken from Harold’s Chicken, a hair stylist, a hedgehog, a tattoo artist inking a Cap’n Crunch character, and a woman eating Funyuns on a couch. Downtown living spaces such as the Metropolitan, Mott Lofts and Smulekoff’s appear with a backdrop of heavy beats, and the spot ends with the original woman concluding, “Mmm, no.”

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“The intended audience for this video was definitely young professionals aged 22-35 in the Cedar Rapids metro area as we know that’s a demographic that’s shown high interest in urban living,” Bardsley said.

Future installments will focus on events, businesses and quality of life, and will expand the marketing push to audiences of the same age range in other Midwestern cities, she said.

“It’s a little edgy; it is out there, but when I started to think about what we are trying to do and accomplish, I think it works,” said Fred Timko, president of the downtown SSMID board, which signed off on the concept.

Scott Olson, a Cedar Rapids City Council member who’s lived in Cedar Rapids since 1961 and has worked downtown for years, said at first he was a little offended by the video, but once he realized it’s meant to be humorous found “it is pretty good” and shows the “success of a community reflected in the vitality of downtown.”

Steve Shriver, a local businessman behind Brewhemia and SOKO Outfitters, added, “I dislike the initial negative connotation ‘Downtown Cedar Rapids Sucks,’ because it doesn’t, but that’s the point, right? I love the overall vibe and message.” The goal of the campaign is to “grab people’s attention and engage the target demographic, and I think they are off to a good start.”

Since it was posted on Facebook, the video has been played 12,000 times and shared 108 times.

Reaction online has been mixed. Most has been positive with proclamations of “awesome video,” “love this town” and urges for followers to share.

“For those of you new to the area, here is one take on metro Cedar Rapids. The piece is a bit ... avant-garde but perhaps designed in the hopes you’ll come up and see for yourself,” Kristi Murdock wrote.

Others were confused. “So, it does suck?” one wrote. “Don’t get it,” commented another.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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