Visit Jackson Partner, MWB, Wins Big at 2020 American Ad Awards

MWB’s Randy Lynn, Damien Blaylock and Keith Fraser; Visit Jackson’s Jonathan Pettus; MWB’s Marc Leffler; Visit Jackson’s Shon Perryman; MWB’s Ryan Kimball (kneeling); voice actor and musician Adam Collier; Visit Jackson’s Kim Lewis; MWB’s Josh Byrd (kneeling) and Parker Brewer; Visit Jackson’s Rickey Thigpen; MWB’s Melanie Appel and Jana Bell. Image: Hapax Creative

MWB, the advertising agency of record for Visit Jackson, took home best of show and a handful of other major awards at the 2020 Addys in Jackson on Tuesday, February 18.

The agency, celebrating its 50th year, produced the collateral for Visit Jackson’s “My City” campaign in 2019, featuring, most notably, a sixty-second commercial of visuals showcasing slices of culture from Jackson, Mississippi.

The internet and television commercial was bolstered by a heavy newscast ad buy on major Jackson stations.

Leffler. Image: Tate Nations

MWB writer and co-creative director on the project, Marc Leffler, whose script was instrumental for the commercial, also took home Copywriter Of The Year.” He’s been with the agency for twenty-five years.

“I feel doubly blessed, and at least doubly humbled,” Leffler said of the win. “Lots of people put their time and talent into the project which we earned those awards for. We have passion projects, and the My City campaign is one of those. Jackson is our hometown, a place with so much realized and unrealized possibility. Jackson inspired those words.”

The My City campaign’s genesis can be traced back to internal meetings at Visit Jackson after tourism partners in the city asked the bureau to help change the misconceptions often created by the content of local newscasts.

“We were asking, ‘What can be done to push back against the negativity (about Jackson) that’s out there?'” said Jonathan Pettus, Visit Jackson Vice President of Marketing, adding, “If we’re going to put out positive news, we needed a positive campaign.”

A year and a half prior, Visit Jackson had launched a music video from AJC and the Envelope Pushers, “My City,” that showcased that same city pride, so most of the visuals – and the message – were on file.

“We started brainstorming and remembered a Superbowl commercial when the game was in Detroit,” Pettus said. “(Rapper) Eminem was the voice over for a ‘Detroit-positive’ commercial for Chrysler. “And that was, ‘Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Now we have something we can do.’”

Pettus said the next phase was honing in on the audience Visit Jackson hoped to reach.

“‘Who are we talking to?’” he asked. “With our TV stations, we’d hit 20 counties, so we didn’t need the script to be so focused on Jacksonians. We needed it to be focused on people, even if you didn’t live in Jackson, being positive about Jackson… seeing Jackson in a positive light.”

Collier, the writer and vocalist of the “My City” song, voiced the commercial.

Leffler said the campaign worked for a variety of reasons, the least of which was authenticity.

“We weren’t saying anything that wasn’t true or heartfelt… anything that this city can’t live up to or reach for.”

Now, the campaign has spread its wings, incorporating social media, a “good news” blog – jxn.ms – and merchandise available there and in the JXN Welcome Center.

“The message resonates with everybody,” Pettus said. “I think there are a lot of people out there that may not espouse that they love Jackson, but they’re still tired of hearing the negative stuff all the time. I think it feels good because we all need Jackson to thrive.”

Other awards won by MWB centered around the spot. They were for “Copywriting,” “Local Consumer Campaign” and “Internet Commercial.”