Is Miami The Next Minneapolis?

Miami Ad School attendance is up. Crispin Porter + Bogusky is the darling of the ad business. Latin influences and the city’s signature art deco architecture are all the rage. Even MTV hosted its last two Video Music Awards in South Beach, making the area the hippest in the land. Will this popularity continue to spread, making Miami a place to choose from a crop of great new ad shops, instead of a one-shop destination? Is Miami, in essence, the next Minneapolis?

The city’s new shops are trying to catch some of CP+B’s reflected glory, and creatives are more willing to move to the city, according to headhunters. Enrollment at the prestigious Miami Ad School is up by 33 percent from last fall to 75 students.

“It’s not [just] a question of it being a creative renaissance,” said Michael Goldberg, chief marketing officer of the area’s largest agency, Zimmerman & Partners in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “It’s about South Florida being a place where things happen. The city is finally getting the credit it deserves.”

Today’s Miami is similar to the scene in Minneapolis in the mid-1990s, when the Midwestern city was considered a creative mecca—a perception previously reserved for New York or Los Angeles. (San Francisco, mainly due to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and the creative boutiques that followed, was and remains another creative destination.) Fallon kicked it off with big wins from United Airlines, Miller Brewing Co. and McDonald’s, and innovative work that attracted more talent. “They were the match that got the kindling started,” said Lee Lynch, founder of Interpublic Group’s Carmichael Lynch.

“[CP+B] has created a buzz,” said Betsy Henao, president of the Advertising Federation of Greater Miami. “Miami is being looked at as a creative hotbed.”

The similarities between Miami and Minneapolis are not entirely coincidental. CP+B founder and Minneapolis native Chuck Porter and Fallon founder Pat Fallon were friends in junior high and high school. Porter said he was inspired by his peer’s success. “I knew I was as smart as he was,” Porter said. “I knew if he could do it in Minneapolis, I could do it in Miami.”

Local agencies think it can be done, too. Already, shops are trying to win business by following CP+B’s “media-neutral” model. In March, the principals of Gaby & Moleta consulted CP+B founder Chuck Porter before reorganizing as Turbulence. Also in March, former CP+B vet Markham Cronin (who worked in Minneapolis after leaving the shop in 2000) opened up Markham Unlimited. With its mix of growing local businesses and the national spotlight, Cronin describes Miami as “very fertile territory for advertising.”

Fourdiaz Vargas, a year-old Hispanic shop, sees CP+B’s model as a way to increase business within its core market. “We show our clients what Crispin is doing,” said Jose- Guillermo Diaz, principal and creative director at the shop. “If they can’t afford Crispin, or [the agency] is too busy to take on a new client, we can give them something similar.”

The prestigious Miami Ad School has seen enrollment grow by a third since last fall, said Pippa Seichrist, the school’s co-founder and president. Five of the school’s 28 teachers came from CP+B, and as a result, the number of inquiries from agencies seeking to hire CP+B-trained talent is increasing, Seichrist said.

“We are getting as many inquiries in a month from agencies looking for talent than we once got in a year,” she said, adding that the school receives more than 400 inquiries from agencies annually, she said.

Amy Hoover, evp of Atlanta recruiter Talent Zoo, said more job hunters are interested in moving to Miami. Some applicants are willing to accept jobs at other local agencies in the hope of attracting CP+B’s attention. “There has been a marked increase in interest in Miami and Fort Lauderdale,” she said.

Local agencies are taking advantage of the abundance of available talent, both home-grown and imported. Turbulence has hired a former copywriter from CP+B and interviewed several other former employees, said Turbulence partner David Jacobson. iChameleon, a 14-month-old interactive agency, recently hired CP+B vet Juan-Carlos Morales (who as an art director and senior interactive Flash developer worked on Burger King and Method Soap) as creative director. Freddie Laker, iChameleon’s CEO, said he’s looking for Morales to work the same mojo he did on those two clients. “I’m looking for the next ‘Come Clean’ or ‘Subservient Chicken,'” said Laker, whose shop employs 19 people but plans to grow to 40 within the next 12 months.

For all the attention Miami has been getting for its creative chops, it’s not yet high on the new-business radar screen. While clients are interested in working with CP+B, they are not yet asking to put other local agencies on the list of potential contenders, said Judy Neer, president of consultancy Pile and Co. in Boston. It could happen in the next few years if some of them can replicate CP+B’s success, she said. “They have to prove themselves first,” she said.