Ian David of o2ideas enjoys Alabama's Southern hospitality

Ian David left The Leith Agency in 1998 to become associate creative director of full-service agency o2ideas in Birmingham, Alabama.

Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham, Alabama

As a writer and a creative, the relocation was an unprecedented chance to work at one of the best agencies in North America. I also liked the fact that it is off the beaten advertising track. As a friend of mine said to me just before I left: "That's real America, that is."

Media environment
Like everyone else, we're busy chasing the Holy Grail: a way to unlock the enormous potential of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The demographics and numbers are there, but not the means to get at them. Not yet, anyway.

On 18 February, TV switches from analogue to digital. From an agency perspective, ease of access to modern innovation has levelled the playing field. The digital technology at o2ideas is as advanced as anything you will find in New York or London.

Culture and social scene
The cultural stereotypes ring true: American football, Southern rock, stock car racing and shots of Jack Daniel's. And everyone speaks funny and no one understands a thing I say. However, a more modern mentality is emerging. Five-star eateries with nationwide reputations and head chefs who are treated like rock stars are everywhere. Having said that, you haven't lived until you've tried the local barbecue.

Main differences
There are more opportunities in radio because spots are invariably 60 seconds rather than 30. Television can be prudish and overt toilet humour is a no-no, so the UK has a greater propensity for truly edgy spots. And no one uses cinema, for reasons I've never quite understood. Cinema is the red-headed stepchild around here.

One thing the UK can learn from Alabama
Southern hospitality. At o2ideas, who you are as a person is as important as any talent you have. We are big-hearted, good-natured folks working in a people-based industry, so we don't have much time for jerks.

Have you relocated? Contact: harriet.dennys@haymarket.com

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