Launching Forward Atlanta (again)

Civic leaders dig up a decades-old slogan

Why mess, as they say, with success? That’s the apparent philosophy of civic boosters, who will reincarnate the Forward Atlanta marketing campaign the Chamber of Commerce first debuted in the 1920s. Back then, under the direction of president Ivan Allen Sr., the Chamber rolled out national advertising touting our central location and business-friendly City Hall. A key goal: thwarting growth in Florida.

In the 1960s the Chamber, then led by future mayor Ivan Allen Jr., led a crusade with the same name. The younger Allen also planned to push mass transit (which, as we know, didn’t go so well) and add jobs, but marketing was the core of Forward Atlanta II. The program included another ad blitz and the launch of the magazine you’re reading right now. Ads touting Atlanta ran in Newsweek, Business Week, and the New York Times, while Atlanta magazine was shipped to corporate bigwigs and relocation experts. It too carried the ads (a sampling of which you’ll find above) to let Atlantans know how their city was being packaged. The Chamber “was selling our city like a product,” wrote Allen, whose time in office coincided with the completion of Atlanta Stadium and a surge in the skyline. (The Chamber sold the magazine in 1977.)

Now the Chamber—fun fact: current head Sam Williams started out as an intern for Allen Jr.—is launching Forward Atlanta 2013–2017. Aimed at stopping the crisis of recession-driven job losses, its goals include fostering business-university collaboration and transit solutions (again). This time around, marketing includes social media and digital ads. Interestingly, Forward Atlanta III’s targeted demographic is not CEOs so much as the coveted “young and restless” twenty-somethings. Who knows what the city fathers of the 1920s would think of that?

This article originally appeared in our March 2013 issue.