Lots of companies talk about “developing the periphery” — but the Israeli branch of the international McCann Erickson advertising agency is actually doing something about it. And not just in the “comfortable” periphery, like Beersheba; McCann Digital Israel is opening up a full-fledged ad agency in Mitzpeh Ramon, the “deepest” of the deep Israeli south.
It’s a place Israelis flock to for hiking, horseback riding, and animal-watching — almost Biblical in nature, the kind of place where you could imagine Abraham and Isaac shepherding their flocks. Situated next to the Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater). One of Israel’s greatest natural wonders, Mitzpeh Ramon is a center of tourism in the deep Negev, with more than a half-dozen hotels and B&B’s. Besides tourism, the town’s other major industry is the quarrying of Jerusalem stone. Among the Tourism Ministry’s plans for the region is construction of a landing strip for light planes, making it easier for tourists from the center of the country and Eilat to tour the area.
High-tech, though, was not on the agenda of any of the government ministries and agencies helping to promote Mitzpeh Ramon. But that’s exactly what McCann is doing, with the establishment of the McCann Valley Center for Digital Marketing and New Media. The office is being inaugurated this month with the assistance of McCann Worldwide and Michal Romi, a local entrepreneur.
The office, McCann Digital Israel said, will offer new media services for small and medium businesses all over Israel. Among those services will be management of Facebook and Twitter campaigns (in Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian); branding and design services; building of websites; and social-media advertising campaigns.
The plan is to hire dozens of people over the next few years, until — by 2018 — the office employs 120 people directly, as well as an additional 120 outside service personnel. And McCann Israel is not opening an office in Mitzpeh Ramon in order to “farm out” back-office work to a group of “discount” employees; the organization is committed to paying the Mitzpeh Ramon staff the same salaries they would be making in Tel Aviv, McCann Israel said.
It’s expected that most of the employees will come from Mitzpeh Ramon and other deep-Negev towns; the company plans to open a six-month training program to get qualified candidates (college graduates with some computer experience) up to speed on digital media. The Ministry of Industry, Labor and Trade will help shoulder the cost of the training, but McCann Israel will be responsible for salaries after the program.
The new office, housed in a set of renovated apartments in Mitzpeh Ramon’s residential quarter, is set to open later this month, with McCann Israel paying for the refurbishing. At a later stage, the company will go in together with the Ministry for the Development of the Galilee and Negev for construction of a proper office, which will be, the Ministry and McCann hope, the center of Mitzpeh Ramon’s tech quarter.
The Ministry for the Development of the Galilee and Negev has taken upon itself the development of affordable housing for workers, said current minister Silvan Shalom. The project, he said, combines “pioneering and entrepreneurship, two important ways to develop the periphery.” While there are many worthy development projects going on in the Negev, said Shalom, this one is special. “We expect the project to have an important influence on the region, because it offers local jobs, and encourages people to move to the south. We plan to continue working with McCann Erickson throughout the entire project,” Shalom added.
Hana Rado, Chief Operating Officer of McCann Israel, said that “we see in Mitzpeh Ramon, and in the entire Negev, an ideal place to build a high-quality, professional community. Even now, at the very beginning of the McCann Valley project, we are amazed to see the level of interest from government officials, as well as from local residents, who see the project as an engine of economic development for the region.
“We hope that the project will provide a wide range of opportunities for young professionals in the south, for Israelis from other areas who wish to work and live there, and for businesses that are searching for challenges, with our objective being the motivating of others to open businesses in Mitzpeh Ramon and the rest of the Negev.”