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Saturday, September 11, 2010

The death of the American Dream now officially good for business.

Add Palladium Boots to the list of brands trying to save the American Dream in its Exploration series.* Detroit Lives feels like it wants to be less about saving and more uncovering though. Previously, we had the likes of Chrysler, Jeep and Levi’s waving their American banners. Here, Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame is your host who tries to keep the smartass to a minimum in a relatively short three-part doc series exploring the potential for Detroit’s rebirth.

Where Michael Moore’s Roger & Me looked at why things went wrong with manufacturing in Flint, Palladium shines a light on possible fixes for Detroit’s problems. As branded content goes, it’s shot nicely (even though they could do without the ghosted logo), and despite some bleak footage, I actually get a more positive vibe from the people in it than I did with Roger.

The bigger question seems to be this: Can a focus on the arts be a spark the ignites a city’s rebirth? Not sure that’s true anywhere without there first being a reason for businesses to want to invest. Usually, that starts with tax incentives, not arts.

I saw this with Bridgeport, CT where I grew up. It’s not unlike many other industrial cities that found their manufacturing sectors taking a hit while trying to adapt to evolving technologies in an outsourced world. Luckily, we just happen to make about every weapon of war imaginable here, and fat military contracts tend to keep local economies going.

In Bridgeport’s case, their attempt at a rebirth came during the 1990s with the city’s first minor league baseball and hockey teams, tax cuts and a balanced budget. Unfortunately, Connecticut also has more than its share of corrupt government officials, as demonstrated by the recent release from prison of the mayor behind that change.  Hello two steps forward, one step...

From their perspective, it’s not completely out of line for Palladium to be promoting the rebirth of a city. This is a brand which itself started in 1920 by making airplane tires, then after WWII, switched over to making shoes in 1947. That said, cities need more than documentaries, even as cool as this.

*Apparently they’re the official shoe of the apocalypse because Will Smith rocked Palladium in I Am Legend.

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