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At the Digiday Agency Summit in Charleston, South Carolina, Bailey Lauerman CEO Greg Andersen discussed why Middle America deserves more attention from brands.

“Middle America has been overgeneralized, underrepresented and underappreciated for a really long time,” he said. “If we continue to think in that way, and look at what happened in November 2016, do those things at your own peril.”

Edited highlights appear below.

Middle America has diversity
“There’s a big part of America that could do with a little bit more understanding from our industry. Ninety-two percent of Americans live outside of the 10 largest cities in the country. There are 44 languages spoken in the homes of San Francisco public school students, and San Francisco is a big, diverse city. There [are] 120 languages spoken in the homes of public school students in Nebraska. There’s a huge influx of immigrants in Middle America, and they’re creating far more interesting cultural mashups than you’d expect.”

Businesses are eyeing the Midwest
“[Agency] Sparks & Honey did a survey. When asked to name the most innovative region in the country, only 10 percent selected the Midwest. But in five years, the Midwest will have more startups than Silicon Valley. The founder of AOL, Steve Case, says to entrepreneurs today that you would be crazy to start your technology business in Silicon Valley. It’s too cost-prohibitive; the competition for talent is way too high. A Google data center sits outside of downtown Omaha [in Nebraska]. Facebook’s data center is being built outside of Omaha, which will go online in 2019.”

The fallacy of marketing to Middle America
“We think, we’re going to put our lives out there. We’re going to use these influencers, and use this image of what everyone else obviously aspires to have. That’s not true. There’s a major disconnect with that. They don’t really relate to that life. There’s a huge amount of pride in the place that these people are from. They don’t have the aspiration to live on the coast and have that life. It’s really important to think about when you’re thinking about brands, creative and innovation. Don’t be an ignorant practitioner.”

Creating an understanding of Middle America for clients
“We’re supposed to be creating brands and ideas that connect people. Our job is to understand America and to bring all of these dimensions of that understanding together on behalf of our clients. Yet we can’t even do that inside of the four walls of our own businesses. What is our value to clients? Is it more data, a new agency model or is it to fundamentally bring forward the complexity of the marketplace that our clients are trying to operate in today? That’s our obligation. That’s what they’re paying us for — how to take advantage of 92 percent of America so their brands and businesses can scale.”

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