When Melanie Charlton and Julie Weber heard that Washington, D.C. made the cut into Amazon’s shortlist for HQ2 cities, they cried tears of joy. The two women head up Brllnt, the creative digital agency behind D.C.’s swaggering #obviouslydc campaign.
The partners of Brllnt didn’t miss a beat when they heard about Amazon’s call for cities to pitch themselves as the company’s second headquarters. They immediately reached out to the Deputy Mayor’s Office of Economic Development and Planning to see how they could help tell D.C.’s story.
It’s unclear when Amazon will make its final selection, but Brllnt’s team of seven is proud of their impact so far. Weber and Charlton, based in D.C.’s WeWork 80 M SE, shared the tight deadlines and unique cooperation that went into their campaign.
Where were you when you heard the news?
Weber: The news broke on Thursday and we cried tears of joy because we put blood, sweat, and tears into this project and did not sleep. I felt like we were on The Bachelor and we got a rose.
How did Brllnt get involved with this project?
Charlton: We have a history working with the mayor’s office. First we worked on the site design for an innovation initiative in 2015, then they contacted us for an initiative called The Beacon, a community-led campaign to make D.C. the best ecosystem for women entrepreneurs.
When we heard the Amazon announcement, we asked the city who’s taking the lead of telling D.C.’s story. Then the city called and said they wanted us to work on this, and we have about 48 hours.
How did you pull off multiple videos and a splash page in only two days?
Charlton: Having a small, nimble team is a big part of it. Julie’s knowledge of the city and the partnership was critical. Having a relationship with the mayor and her staff definitely helped as well. They hit the ground running and were super efficient and effective with approvals.
Weber: One of the great things about D.C. is you can move things quickly. We’re lucky as a city to work for a local government that embodies the entrepreneurial mindset. Even letting us recommend a fairly bold campaign—confident yet not condescending—our city is positioned to do that. We have this incredible, diverse local economy that is very close-knit.
Charlton: We came together with our friends and partners and put our full passion behind our campaign. Sometimes the best ideas come out of pressure and short deadline situations. We have a lot of fun with late nights and getting to know team members on that level.
OK, let’s say D.C. wins it. How does their win impact you?
Weber: It would be tremendous for us. Even when we got shortlisted, we received a lot of recognition from the business community. #Obviouslydc validates our ability to bring people together and make an impact through messaging, which is not always the first thing people think of when they think of marketing and design. It’s great seeing the community response that will have a long-term positive impact on the business. It will be continued momentum, if not accelerated.
How are you feeling now?
Weber: We’re still kind of on our high. Regardless of whether we win, if we’re able to educate people about what D.C. has to offer as a community and not just a federal one, that would be enough.