Nashville’s Super Bowl Moment

By Samuel Cowden, Guest Blogger | 2.26.17

The Super Bowl is still quite visible in our rearview mirror, and we have been exposed to the year’s most exquisite examples of advertising.

The big game was an opportunity for brands to impress, to excite, and to entice. With advertising spots, even the shortest, running bills of over a million dollars, brands carefully considered their advertising — making sure to make the most of an opportunity, and audience, that only comes once a year.

Here’s the thing, Nashville is having it’s Super Bowl moment. The nation is watching us, waiting to see what we have to offer.

Unfortunately — in the business world — we don’t have much to show them because our approach to advertising is about as refined as a used car salesman’s.

In 2012, my business partner and I moved to Nashville from a small town 20 minutes outside of Dayton, Ohio to start a commercial animation studio. Nashville seemed like the perfect place to begin — fertile ground, as they say — due to its burgeoning economic landscape.

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Only a few years after the economic crisis of 2008, Nashville was growing faster than almost any city in the country and we were looking to capitalize — and we did. Nearly five years later, we’re still here — and doing pretty well.

There’s just one catch, less than ten percent of our business will originate in Nashville this year.

In the beginning, we played the game. We paid ourselves next to nothing, taking every job that came our way — no matter the budget — just to get our foothold. Our studio began to grow. We hired new employees and started making livable salaries. We were given the opportunity to work with some of the biggest advertising agencies in the world as well as directly with businesses like Bad Robot, Amazon, and CBS.

However, Nashville advertisers quickly began to balk at our budgets. When working in Nashville we were constantly face-to-face with a question — make great work or make a living? We were at war with a culture of low expectations.

Of all the obstacles to overcome, low expectations may be the hardest. Once somebody tells you that what you’re doing is good enough, it becomes indescribably harder to be convinced otherwise.

Well, here’s your wake-up call. Here’s somebody telling you that the rest of the country is passing you by while you’re busy pinching pennies.

On the other hand, maybe Nashville isn’t ready for its Super Bowl moment. Maybe we should tell the world to avert their eyes for a few years while we figure out this whole advertising thing. Maybe we just need a little time.

As I write this, I’m sitting in seat 15F on a plane bound for Los Angeles, followed by stops in Seattle and San Francisco — places that, when given their moment, didn’t fumble the ball.

 

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Samuel Cowden is the founder and Executive Producer of IV, an award-winning animation studio focused on creating beautiful videos about the human narrative for design-conscious brands including IDEO, Edelman, CBS, Amazon, and Google.

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