[Writer’s disclosure: I have lived in a suburb of Portland for 20 years]
Everyone’s had a rough year and a half, but some places have been hit harder by the combination of the pandemic and the political fallout from the 2020 Presidential election and the Black Lives Matter protests that led to larger counter-protests and massive amounts of property damage. The Summer of 2020 saw Donald Trump deploying troops to several American cities, but no other city has become the example of everything that ails our nation, at least in the eyes of the Republican Party, and that city is Portland, Oregon.
Everyone loves to point to Portland and say things like “Antifa set Portland on fire” or something, with extensive footage of the boarded-up businesses in the tony Pearl District and the tent cities that have sadly been popping up everywhere from the waterfront to the embankments that line the freeways. Portland has definitely been through a lot of things, and no one seems to know what to do about it other than try to recall beleaguered Mayor Ted Wheeler, who would end up running against himself if no one can get enough signatures to challenge him.
With Washington State, their closest neighbor to the north, set to fully reopen on June 30th, Portland is facing several challenges to keep its economy afloat. Once a haven for foodies, many high-profile restaurants have been lost to the pandemic, and the service industry has taken such a hit that many workers who were laid off (like yours truly) have no interest in returning to that line of work (just like yours truly).
So what’s a former media darling to do now that the country can start getting back to normal? As Portland struggles to reach the all-important vaccination threshold, it’s also looking to rehab its image. Think “Parent Trap” Lindsey Lohan vs current Lindsey Lohan, and you have a sense of what Portland’s up against.
Travel Portland, usually known for its quirky ads luring tourists to Portland’s more unique and quirky spots, thought it was time to let everyone known the city is absolutely open for your business. The company crowdsourced copywriters and outside ad agencies to pitch ideas to them. And this is what they ended up with:
There’s also an ad to go with it.
And it went over on Twitter like kombucha that hasn’t been fermented long enough.
— Anne Bocci (@annebocci) June 20, 2021
Dear @travelportland – I saw your ad in the @nytimes today. Your attempt to speak for Portland to the nation without calling out individual and institutional racism on the weekend of #JuneTeenth2021 was disappointing. Black and Brown people don’t all feel included. Do better. pic.twitter.com/GWedZJUZp6
— Martha Pellegrino (@marthapel) June 20, 2021
My agency and I several professionals from creative industries ( a group of mostly Black femmes and Bipoc women) made it to the final 5…but alas we were not selected 🤷🏿♀️
— Zaza al Ghul✨💓🦇 (@BasicBlaecGirl) June 22, 2021