It’s a clear, sunny, typical Saturday in Tucson, Arizona, as vendors set up their tents along 4th Avenue. The Street Fair doesn’t begin for another hour, so the crowds haven’t formed quite yet. A lanky man with long dreadlocks stands along the side of the scene, reciting a poem to himself. The words are rhythmic, musical—something you would hear at a poetry slam at a local coffee shop—and he speaks of community empowerment and the need to spend money on local businesses. As the volume of his voice rises higher, a few vendors look over in curiosity, then return to their work.
The crowds shuffle in. As the clock strikes nine, 4th Avenue fills up, forming a sea of bodies cruising up and down the street, checking out the various tents offering locally made goods. The man from before now walks among them, speaking the poem in full, to a camera lens that captures the scene all around him.
The Creation of “Where Does Your Money Go?”
For the past few months, Vantage West has been cooking up the ingredients for a new campaign that illustrates their core values of community empowerment. “Where Does Your Money Go?” features Tucson-based rapper Lando Chill as he traverses the city, asking one simple question. Along the way, he encounters individuals who blindly spend their money on trivial things and implores them to think about the impact of these choices, encouraging them to make more intentional financial decisions that benefit their own lives and communities in the future.
These individuals represent many of us. Often, we neglect to think about the real power we possess through the use of money. The question “Where does your money go?” asks us to think more deeply about our spending and realize how we can empower our communities by keeping our money local.
“Our goal wasn’t solely to promote Vantage West,” said Jill Casey, Assistant Vice President of Communications and Content Marketing at Vantage West. “Instead, we wanted to help further drive the movement to support local businesses as a whole, because in the end it strengthens our local economy and benefits us all.”
The message Vantage West seeks to impart is that money is a tool. You can use some or all of it to help your own community develop, or hand it all over to multinational corporations that may not always have your best interests in mind. The objective is not to demonize corporations or even to dissuade the public from spending their money at a national chain. Instead, the video urges us all to think carefully about where our money ends up after it leaves our hands, and rethink what it means to be a consumer. We are not passive participants in our economy—we are stakeholders in the communities around us.
“A bold message deserved a bold style of storytelling,” said Josh Belhumeur, Partner at BRINK creative agency and the project lead. “What we’ve produced will really stand out and be effective at getting Arizonans to reconsider their spending choices.”
The video emphasizes one of the key priorities of Vantage West: community connection. As a local credit union, the community is Vantage West’s lifeblood, and they believe that if their Members and their surrounding communities thrive, then their own institution will thrive. It’s this sense of mutual benefit that is often neglected in modern consumerist society. “Where Does Your Money Go?” attempts to instill the message that we’re only as strong as our communities.
The Importance of Keeping It Local
Numerous studies have shown the positive impact of spending locally. Research firm Civic Economics found that shopping at local retail stores produces four times as much economic return for the local community as shopping at national chains does. Another of their studies showed that a 10% shift in spending from a national chain to a local independent business results in $137 million in new economic activity, creates 1600 new jobs, and decreases unemployment by 0.5%.
While the potential economic impact is well documented, the idea of spending locally hasn’t quite caught on with the masses. With “Where Does Your Money Go?” Vantage West illustrates how spending locally can empower our own communities. By setting the video in Tucson, Vantage West aims for the message to connect with fellow Tucsonans and urge them to always be conscious of where their money flows.
Local Message, Local Crew
Vantage West believes that honesty and trust are two fundamental components of a successful organization. This belief led to the decision to use a crew based entirely in Tucson. Starting from the development process, Vantage West prioritized finding local agencies, talent, and businesses to produce the project.
The easiest decision to make was where to set the location of the video. Being a native Tucson business, Vantage West felt that it had to be set in the city to connect with their local audience and their Members. Fortunately, the 4th Avenue Street Fair was being held around the same time as the shoot date—the timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous. For those unfamiliar, the Street Fair features hundreds of vendors and attracts tens of thousands of people each year, making its hustle and bustle the perfect backdrop to Lando Chill’s spoken verse on the benefits of creating a vibrant community.
The Talent: Lando Chill
Tucson-based rapper Lando Chill wrote and delivers the spoken word piece heard throughout the video. After the release of his second album, The Boy Who Talked to the Wind, he has experienced increasing buzz, but beyond just being talented, he has also been a dependable advocate for the city of Tucson.
Lando Chill arrived in Tucson from his hometown of Chicago after enrolling at the University of Arizona to study film. Around this time, he was bitten by the music bug and began translating his written poems into songs. He credits Tucson for providing him with the support that eventually led to his success. In an interview with the Tucson Weekly, Lando Chill said, “Tucson gave me the opportunity to be able to spread my wings,” adding that he likely wouldn’t have found his “calling as a musician” if he hadn’t ended up in Tucson. So it only makes sense that someone so impacted by Tucson would be chosen to deliver the keynote address on how to make the city stronger.
The Director: Malcolm Critcher
As a life-long Tucson resident and graduate of the University of Arizona, Malcolm Critcher was certainly the right director for the job. Critcher has directed several of Lando Chill’s videos in the past, and says he began a working relationship with Lando when he was still a film student.
“I was always a fan of his music, and I was also interested to see where music videos were going,” he said. “We financed the first video ourselves, then I became his go-to director.”
While these days Malcolm has to spend much of his time in LA, he jumped at the opportunity to work on the “Where Does Your Money Go?” project after hearing the initial pitch. “I’ve always appreciated the Tucson community as a whole,” Critcher said. “Since leaving Tucson, I’ve especially appreciated the special and unique culture and sense of community.”
Critcher also added that Tucson is a great base for film production for him because he’s easily able to source a crew of film veterans from his days at the University of Arizona. In addition to talent and crew, Critcher says the surrounding community was accommodating to the needs of the shoot and went “above and beyond” to help with the production’s success.
In the end, Critcher was happy that the project stuck to its core message: “It not only showcased the advantage of local spending, but it was also made by Tucson businesses.”
“Where Does Your Money Go?” is a project made by the community, for the community. It shows that we hold the ability to help our communities thrive through the power of the purse. While Tucson was the star of this show, the message remains universal: When we spend local and support local businesses, we empower our communities, our neighbors, and ourselves.