First thing is first – DC is a wonderful place to be. You’re almost never the smartest person in the room (but can frequently test out if it is in fact possible to be smart “by association”), you can live by the cities unofficial motto of “work hard, brunch harder”, you get to experience cherry blossom season, you are surrounded by historical marvels…the list could go on. But is there somewhere else you should be?
Now hold on a minute. I know life’s joy isn’t measured by proximity to the Lincoln Memorial, but DC has its fair share of cons too. Namely that you’ll never be the smartest person in a room, there is no shortage of traffic, you get to experience cherry blossom season (a.k.a. a season ruled by tourists and allergies), and it is freaking expensive.
A nearby city has taken to an advertising campaign to try and capitalize on DC’s weaknesses to recruit millennials to switch their gears for the next stage of their life. The culprit? Columbus, Ohio.
The city’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has recently launched a campaign aimed to show why Columbus is so great. The advertisements are set to run for the length of the summer in DC and Chicago. They are specifically targeting young professionals (particularly young creative types) who are between the ages of 25-35. The thought process behind this target audience is that they are the people most likely to move in the next few years.
The District Measured ( a blog by DC’s Office of Revenue Analysis) has compiled a comparative data chart that uses numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Policy Institute and more to compare how millennials fare financially between DC and Columbus:
Even though housing is cheaper in Columbus, so are companies (read: millennials don’t make as much money in Buckeye country). Skeptics of the Columbus campaign have also pointed out that lots of DC residents are able to reduce their costs of living through roommates and not owning a car.
The District Measured blog went beyond their table to analyze other factors. Although right now, a jump from DC to Columbus may not make a huge difference, it could mean a pretty penny for a millennial’s future family. The experts wrote:
“If they want to buy a house or have children, though, costs will go up even more relative to those in Columbus. The median cost of a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in DC is $788,000. In Columbus it’s $222,000. Child-care for two children in DC is 75% more expensive than in Columbus. DC millennials might not be considering a move to Columbus now, but in several years they might re-think the data.”
The campaign is called “Experience Columbus” and points passersby to a website called LifeinCbus.com. So far, reports have been that the campaign has purchased wallscapes in downtown Chicago and metro station ads throughout DC. Amy Tillinghast, the VP of marketing for Experience Columbus, shared insights into the campaign’s successes so far with Biz Journal, pointing out key returns from last summer’s ads:
- A wallscape in Chicago generated around 25.2 million impressions
- Signs at D.C. metro stations garnered 31.5 million impressions
- The message reached 11.4 million through videos playing in elevators on 1,300 screens in Chicago and 440 in DC
- Digital ads drew 14.4 million impressions
The returns of the campaign are predicted to be bigger and better this year, with a longer paid-advertising campaign that stretches from April to October. Tillinghast expanded on the creative direction of the campaign saying,
“This image campaign is about planting a seed. We know people in this age range want to explore and discover on their own, not for us to tell them what to think.”
Their focus on DC and Chicago comes partially from their large populations and partially from the fact that Experience Columbus has a satellite office in each city.
While I appreciate Columbus’s sincere efforts and can acknowledge that they have a lot going for them (see foodie outfits like the North Market, fun shopping at Easton and an excuse to eat candy with peanut butter and chocolate), I (we) have to root for the home team, here. While Columbus may provide less frustrating sports teams and you could escape Ovechkin and the Capitals choking in the playoffs for some no-pressure nachos at a Columbus Blue Jackets game (they never make the playoffs), we have a lot going for us.
Ohio may have buckeyes that lend themselves to deliciously sweet prototypes, but you can’t beat the cherry blossoms blooming. Can you buy a renovated row house in Columbus? Didn’t think so. Not to mention the mall and the monuments, often found in the background of the hustle and bustle of some of the most diverse, passionate and brilliant people in the country.
Here’s to working hard, playing harder and brunching hardest. DC or bust! (Read: Go home Columbus, you’re drunk).