Photo originally uploaded by Michelle Kaufmann
It would appear our neighbors north of the border are not big fans of suburbia. Thanks to some Netflix wanderings, I came across not one but two provocative documentaries by Canadian filmmakers about the dark side of the American dream — ok, North American dream — as embodied by the horrors of suburban sprawl. “The End of Suburbia” argues that life as we know it — McMansions, SUVs, cheap gas — will implode within the next couple of years as we hit the top of the bell curve of our global ability to extract oil (the “peak oil” theory). “Radiant City” focuses less on the oil crisis and more on the general alienation of suburban residents thanks to soulless cookie cutter architecture, lack of walking and communal space and mindnumbing commutes. (Christopher B. Leinberger covers this topic too through the lens of the subprime mortgage crisis in this great Atlantic Monthly piece.)
What does this have to do with PR? Or me personally? On the latter front, makes me damned glad I live in a town with a main street and walking space and good public transportation (and that I drive a Prius). As for PR, am wondering how best to approach brand storytelling as we think about meeting the needs of the woman so many of our clients market to: the very same middle-class, suburban, SUV-driving mom whose way of life (if the Canadians are correct!) is likely to change very dramatically in the near future. Don’t have the answer right now. Do have the sense though that the demise of suburbia is a macro-trend we need to observe carefully– personally and professionally.