deserted main street


Ghost towns, abandoned factories, deserted parks and an eerie, visual quiet. Sounds like Chernobyl or a shuttered buggy factory, doesn’t it? It’s not; this is the type of photographic imagery I see all too often on economic development websites. Shots of downtowns with no one on the street, sidewalks or benches. Playground equipment and picnic tables all empty as if they were evacuated. Sculpture gardens unappreciated and ignored. CNC equipment, loading docks, and company entrances that have gone idle, no one working the equipment, nobody assembling the finished goods or running the bottling equipment. You can almost hear the crickets chirping.

Economic development websites are supposed to present a place as a vibrant, competitive place on the move. You could call it the curse of knowledge: people are very familiar with their own towns, counties, communities and businesses. They know what kinds of activities go on in these locations. They know about the music festival, the tour that went through the local craft brewery, the minor league team that played the day before and the college graduation ceremony that takes place every year, so the tendency is to project their insight and personal experiences into the photography they are shooting and selecting. Unfortunately, your intended audience does not share this intimate knowledge. The effect of an abandoned location can be a little depressing.

The solution: add people. Not necessarily easy, I know, but worth the effort. The addition of people in these locations, doing what they would do, brings photographs to life, which brings your region and marketing materials to life. Photograph people in the community living life, doing what they love to do, filling orders and delivering the goods. At Ady Advantage, we do strategic planning, target market research, and offer site selection services. This research, strategy development and planning can lead to marketing plans, branding initiatives, websites and print collateral. Good, thoughtful photography is essential to making these marketing materials resonate with your target audience. It will add flavor and memorability to the materials you use to promote your region in a way a vacant amphitheater cannot.

active downtown

How do you get this Hollywood production underway? Contrary to what you might think, getting good photography doesn’t have to be a huge production. Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Hire a photographer to gather these types of images as community events occur. This is one of those situations where quality trumps quantity. Investing in a smaller number of high-quality shots will have a better return than hundreds of poor pictures.
  • When the opportunity presents, take the photos yourself. You have a camera – it’s the one with the phone built in.
  • When conducting your business retention and expansion activities, ask your local companies if they have images you could use in your materials.
  • Describe what you’re looking for to the Chamber of Commerce so they may share their archives.
  • The local newspapers or television stations may have photos they would let you use.
  • Amateur photographers from your region may be posting their work on websites such as Flickr, Instagram and Facebook. Search them out, contact them, and ask for permission to use their images.
  • Remember to document where these photos came from, always ask permission, and, if requested, give credit to the photographer and/or the organization.

By bringing life to these desolate images, you can showcase the best your region has to offer.

If it’s time to replace those outdated marketing materials, Ady Advantage can help. Through our marketing and branding services for EDOs, our experts can help you identify what’s unique and memorable about your region, craft your brand identity, and create marketing materials and websites that bring out your best. Contact Bennett Syverson for more information at 608-663-9218.

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