Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Pulitzer Story

This year's Pulitzer winner for fiction is "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz (Riverhead Books). It's Diaz's first novel. He fell in love with books as a little boy growing up in New Jersey. As immigrants from the Dominican Republic, his family was not exactly flush with cash. So, he fed his book habit at his local library. Imagine that happening if there were no public libraries.

I had my own brush with the Pulitzers. It's not what you think. Much earlier in my career, I landed a meeting for one of my clients at the New York Times. Janet Robinson had just joined on as CEO of the NYTimes. She graciously granted us 30 minutes of her time to hear our pitch. I was delirious.

The day of the meeting, we marched into the headquarters of the New York Times. This was before 9-11. Security consisted of a craggy looking old gentleman dressed like a security guard. He took our names and gave us little tin NYT pins for our jackets. (I keep mine in my jewelry box, still.)

Then he gave us directions to Ms. Robinson's office:
"Take the elevator to the 11th floor, turn left. Walk to the end of the Pulitzers, turn right."

We did so. Walking that long hallway of Pulitzer-prize winning articles and photographs was like stepping into a time machine. All the stories and photographs that defined our history were all there. It commanded reverence. What ever we had planned to say escaped us, we were all so swept away. The meeting turned out to be more casual, friendly. Not the same as winning a Pulitzer, but a winning moment nonetheless.

Congratulations to Mr. Diaz. A remarkable triumph for a first novel. I can't imagine what that must feel like.

But I do know this. We all have moments in our lives when the sky opens up, benevolence pours down and we experience the extraordinary. I'm not overlooking people living in grinding poverty or with tragic situations. I believe every life has one, two, maybe if your lucky hundreds of moments when the world is your oyster. Best to know them when we are in them. And be grateful. Whether they come with a prize or not.

photo courtesy of epicharmus at flickr

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

National Poetry Month

April is nearly done. I was turning the page of my planner to May, when I realized that April was National Poetry Month. I didn't celebrate it here at the blog. Hell, I didn't even mention it. Let me correct that now before April flits away. Allow me to introduce Mary Fons, a young Chicago poet with a powerhouse presence. Enjoy! (The video runs 4 minutes. If you bag out early you'll miss the clincher at the end.)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Automotive Sponsors Rev Their Engines

Car dealers get a bad rap. I may be unusual, but I actually enjoy shopping for a vehicle. Let me explain my fondness. As a kid, I always looked forward to the Detroit Auto Show. What a spectacle! My father, who worked for GM, got VIP passes. We'd dress to the nines for the occassion. I recall slipping into a Rolls Royce once and opening all the little hand-crafted compartments made of polished wood. It was delicious.

We'd play a fantasy shopping game. We had to pick three. Three cars you'd want to have.

Car 1: You win it, are given it, it doesn't cost you a penny. Choose!

Car 2: The car you wanted when you grew up.

Car 3: The car you'd buy today. If you had the dough, that is, which was a totally imaginary proposition.

On the drive home we'd compare notes. It could get heated defending your choices.

Well, despite the storm clouds over the auto industry, the news out of the marketing departments is that car dealers are planning to start spending on sponsorship again. This bodes well for arts and culture. Auto makers have always had a sixth sense about the cultural consumer. Truth is, they were first lured in by the luxury automotive buyer. But the Internet has bred a new type of auto sponsor.

Allow me to introduce you:

1. The average car dealer spends $365,000 per year on advertising, more for a chain of dealerships.

2. The Web rules. In markets big and small, dealers are driving resources into the Web.

3. Culture means community. Dealers want to emulate local banks before the days of the big bank mergers. Nice guys, local feel, contributing to community aspirations.

Let me stress that the local angle. Ford and GM are really getting this. Web or no web, cars are still sold locally. The Web just facilitates purchase intent, but it has not replaced the purchase destination, which is still the dealer's show room. That's why Ford and GM are pushing more marketing dollars down to the local level.

How to cash in? Ask questions, listen, brainstorm. Get to know your local dealers. Pay a call to your local dealer. Ask about new vehicle launches (more $$$$ available for launches) and ask about their plans to liquidate older models in the fall. Cook up some plans together: ticket promotions, radio and web promotions, test drives, VIP preview and behind-the-scenes events for their customers. Talk about how your Website can drive traffic to theirs.

The main point is that national marketing offices are being generous again with local sponsorship dollars. Local libraries, museums, theaters, education, community and public art projects all have a crack at these sponsorship dollars.

Caveat: Are you in a smaller market? Or a market that's currently depressed (high unemployment rates?) If so, your local dealer may be targeted for a shut down or a merger. American car manufacturers have too many dealerships, period, so consolidation is on the way.

Want the deep dive on the automotive sponsorship category? Sign up for our free newsletter where we'll share more details to help you drive home a partnership.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Arts Sponsorship's Secret Sauce

I'm watching sports marketers try to crack the code of arts sponsorship. It's inspiring and it's also a little amusing. Their approach is downright Flinstonian. Same blunt instruments, same command-and-control attitudes toward the consumer. The problem is that the entire social landscape is shifting, dude. The sponsorship model itself is up for revision. After all, why should sponsorship be any different from all the other traditional media in crisis?

Seems the old dogs need new tricks. But who will lead the way? I see the sports-marketing enthusiasts at IEG, now owned by gargantuan WPP, have whipped up product that addresses the rising power of the cultural consumer. (Guess the sports fan has had his day.)

The nuances of the cultural consumer psychographic makes sponsorship difficult to scale. There's no denying that poses a challenge to mass marketers. Still, there are tangible benefits, which have significant value and cost pennies on the dollar compared to notoriously over-priced sports packages. But it's the intangibles that comprise the Secret Sauce: authenticity, creative essence and cultural enmeshment. Scaling is facilitated by new media, cable and viral passion.

Having spent years researching and translating the value of arts sponsorship to corporate sponsors, I can tell you the approach is specialized and the language is unique. While I am encouraged that the sponsorship marketplace is at last showing signs of evolving in this direction, I wonder if sports marketers will succeed in crossing the chasm from the sports fan to the cultural consumer using the current mind-set? Believe me, I welcome it. But the plain truth is that success hinges on having thought leaders who are a little more "open-source" than the current players. Open minds and open hearts will rule this new realm. The dominant voices in the sponsorship industry have cloistered it, keeping marketers insulated while consumer culture changed without them. Now it's a catch-up race. May the best colleagues win.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Film Movement Renews Stella Artois Sponsorship

Stella Artois began experimenting with sponsorship ties to film about ten years ago. Today, it's core to the brand's positioning. Why? People who like film will drink beer, but it has to be a sophisticated import. Film also has a great cross-over appeal. Research shows that 78% of American males between the ages of 21-35 (the bull's eye for beer companies) appreciate independent film.

Yesterday, Film Movement, the New-York based film distribution company that brings first-run, award-winning independent and foreign films to fans all across the country, announced today Stella Artois's sponsorship renewal. The multi-faceted sponsorship deal integrates the Stella Artois brand into Film Movement's various distribution channels. The beer is distrubuted in the U.S. by Anheuser-Busch, Inc.

The announcement was made today by Film Movement's Vice President of Business Development, Meghan Wurtz and Sabina Ahmed, Busch Media Group's Manager, Media Planning. Stella Artois is the exclusive beverage advertiser. Currently, Film Movement intends to identify and join forces with like-minded consumer brands interested in establishing a long-term relationship with Film Movement.

"This affiliation just makes sense," said Chris Auberry, U.S. brand manager for Stella Artois. "Film Movement's various distribution channels combined with our support of premiere film events will help us extend our message to a discerning group of consumers - the kind of consumers who expect and appreciate the finer things in life."

Inside the arts sponsorship deal:

VOD Presence: Film Festival on Demand, a nationwide Free Video On Demand (VOD) channel is sponsored (presented) by Stella Artois and is currently being carried in more than 8 million homes by DirecTV, Cox, Verizon FiOS TV, Comcast Washington, Mediacom, Armstrong and Bresnan Communications. The VOD presence is expected to grow to 24 million in 2009. Stella Artois showcases a spot prior to every Film Movement feature film and short film featured on Film Festival on Demand.

DVD Presence: Every film distributed by Film Movement includes a Stella Artois Presentation Credit and logo as well as a Stella Artois spot.

Theatrical Presence: At each Film Movement theatrical release and theatrical premiere party, Stella Artois receives significant brand presence.

Stella Artois traces its origin back to 1366 to a brewery called Den Hoorn, located in Leuven, a town just outside of Brussels. In 1717, master brewer Sebastian Artois purchased the brewery and renamed it to his namesake. The Artois Brewery created a special brew to celebrate Christmas and named it Stella (Latin for star) for its exceptional clarity. Today, Stella Artois is the gold standard for Belgian lagers with its distinctive flavor and spicy hop character.

Stella Artois redesigned its
Web site in 2007 to further strengthen the brand's sponsorship ties to the film industry. The site opens with a short film titled La Bouteille, which serves as navigation for the site, and features a series of film vignettes that tell the Stella Artois story. Super smart, very RenGen deal!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Web 2.0 Accelerates the RenGen

I was struck by the way Virginia Kuhn at USC's Institute for Multi-Media Literacy describes this year's batch of graduates:

"Perhaps one of the strongest shifts that occurred during the four years of the Honors Program’s first cohort was a movement from a Web 1.0 ethos in which users encountered relatively static Web sites, to a Web 2.0 paradigm in which sites became platforms encouraging user creativity. The IML’s Honors students cheerfully seized these tools and the corresponding mentality, and their projects reflect their ability to merge academic goals with participatory media."

Let's step back for a second. In four short years, Web 2.0 has turned the Internet into a vast digital canvas for creative expression. It has accelerated the rise of the RenGen considerably. It's important to consider and absorb these seismic changes in the culture if we are to benefit from them.

Technological advances, especially in viral media, are like fast food. We acquire, devour and digest them in a snap. No time to think. Less time to wonder what it means.

Here's to slow thought.

(Interesting that Kuhn joined USC in 2005 after successfully defending one of the first all-digital dissertations in the country. )

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sponsorship Monday

Welcome to Sponsorship Monday! This is a new feature of this blog. We created it to respond to the growing need among people in cultural industries to innovate within the discipline of sponsorship in ways that enrich the culture.

Even in a changed economy, the industries that create the culture can be competitive. In part, this is because more executives are waking up to the following realities:

1. Television is losing audience. TV is still a component of the marketing mix to drive awareness, but it is not the future. Many of the costly sports-marketing deals are tied to big television packages. While sports marketing will always speak to a certain kind of consumer, it's no longer a universal slam dunk.

2. Innovation is the new mantra. When I spoke to a gathering of CEO's at MIT last week, I was astonished at how open they were to the RenGen message. Why? Because they are seeing it play out in their own businesses. Lots of questions and second-step conversations resulted. I think this positions cultural marketing as the authentic, uncluttered landscape where innovation can occur.

3. Make meaning or die. Savvy marketing executives I talk with grasp that their sponsorship investments, along with their philanthropic activities can give their brands a point of view. This is critical. In a world that cries out for major renovation, being part of a larger solution, making a difference, and letting the consumer know where you stand on issues is priceless! What used to be a frill, is becoming an essential part of the mix.

We find this situation bracing, not daunting, and loaded with potential! That's why the Culture Scouts and I now dedicate Mondays to the discussion of cultural marketing, arts and entertainment sponsorships, marketing innovations where companies and sponsees co-create, and cause marketing aimed at the cultural consumer.

Next week, we'll take an inside look at what's happening in Detroit, and how you can design a strategy that taps a surprising new approach from the big automakers.

As always, we welcome your comments and ideas.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Can't Get No Happiness? Try Satisfaction

My nose is sunburned. My cheeks are flushed with the heat of a day spent gardening. Today, I hauled and spread ten yards of mulch. Count 'em, ten!

Each time I hauled away another load of mulch, I considered how much I was enjoying it. Not the work, I'm not that crazy. But the smells and sensations. Plunging my shovel into the heap of muddy mulch and feeling it give against my effort felt like I was accomplishing something.

My neck stings a little, probably sunburned, too. But I can't see. Despite what my kids believe, I don't have eyes in the back of my head. As I gazed at my yard, I felt a sense of satisfaction. It gave me pause. Lately, I have been gleaning more and more evidence that values are changing surrounding what makes us happy. Note the popularity of
Barry Schwartz's work on the paradox of choice and how it sabotages our happiness. Even the outspoken blogger Penelope Trunk rues misspending her income as a young professional on clothes. The Not So Big Life seems to be replacing the BHAGs.

When one of my Culture Scouts,
Brandy Agerbeck said she had learned "that buying things is not the same as doing things," it rang true. This week, the NY Times reported more bad news on consumer spending. As the market cools, our appetite for the shiny big life seems to be chilling with it.

For a while "happiness" was all the buzz. But I'm not hearing people talk about happiness quite so much these days. Instead, I'm hearing about satisfaction. People are coming to know what gives them satisfaction. I count myself among them. We're talking about a clearer sense of purpose in life and work that inspires contentment in everyday triumphs. In a society driven to prowl for the next big thing, the idea of satisfaction seems puny, doesn't it? Yet we all know that when we remain persistent, disciplined and habitual in changing a habit or moving toward a goal, we get results. So there is a hard-headed case to be made for plain old satisfaction based on modest incremental successes.

I took a shower, but the grit remains beneath my fingernails forming dark, smiling crescents. I smile back--I'll have to clean them more rigorously before Monday's business meeting. But I look out at my garden and it is ready for spring. I feel satisfied.

Photo courtesy of Celinet.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Why I Can't Live Without Libraries

I'm hooked and I know it. I love libraries. Time spent in a good library thrills me to no end. Okay, you are thinking, what's the big deal? Well, for all these years, and I mean way back to the days when I was a little girl growing up in Detroit, I have found solace in libraries. The neat rows of books, the glide of book carts, the aroma of discovery are all deeply reassuring to me. I was only 10 years old when my father died suddenly. I took sanctuary in my local library where I was consoled by the order and reliability of the place. Later on in high school, I spent my free time in libraries preparing for debates and researching papers. I came to know specific librarians who always led me to the good stuff. I still use libraries today; despite Google's flirtations.

But I never expected libraries to love me back. Why would they? They are institutions for God's sake. But this week, WorldCat, an online catalog of over 49 million records, shows libraries have been acquiring my book at a steady clip. Better yet, the Chicago Public Library system has honored me as the 2008 Charlotte Kim Scholar in Residence. Oh, my. I am so deeply gratified. After all, there's nothing quite like the feeling of requited love.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Actor Tim Robbins Rocks NAB with RenGen Message

When Tim Robbins jogged off script at the National Association of Broadcasters meeting this week, cameras were shut down. But not the audio.
Robbin's message is very RenGen. He urges broadcasters to cooperate in a new age of enlightenment. He pleads for media inspired by altruism and compassion, not fear. Listen to Robbins last six minutes and hear him rail.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Bradley

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Return of the Robot Women in Ads

The robot women have returned. They are showing up in beer and vodka ads. Robot women have come and gone in pop culture, and their appearance on the scene usually signals something deeper afoot. In the 1940's and 1950's it seemed like another expression of industrialism. Man-made life, but ideal life. As I looked at the green skinned mechanical woman peering down at me in the beer aisle the other day, it made me wonder why she's back, this man-made woman? What's her appeal?
Image from the film Metropolis

Friday, April 11, 2008

RenGen in the Workplace

Fascinating week. My favorite kind of week is about being out in the field, soaking up the local culture, talking with business leaders and learning new things. I was at a summit for CEO's at MIT where I gave a presentation on the RenGen. The energy in the room was electric. (My microphone shorted out!!! I'm not kidding.) Based on the reactions and questions I got, the most common concern was about how to manage young RenGen in the workplace.

Funny, I get the same question from leaders in education, libraries and social service. If this generation is so inspired and creative, how come their bosses and teachers aren't getting any of that action?

The whole topic of young RenGen in the workplace deserves a thorough going over. So much so, that I have decided to devote an entire newsletter to the topic. It'll be chock full of tips and strategies to help you tap the creative energy of this quirky cohort.

Sign up if you'd like to receive the "How to Lead Young RenGen" edition of our upcoming

In the meantime, I leave you with this. A group of young RenGen artists who organized, rehearsed, and videotaped this political statement. It has drawn over 50,000 views on YouTube.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Show Me the Money--EU and the Cultural Economy

The U.S. economy may have it ups and downs, but one thing is clear: business is good when it comes to creative industries. Organizations that create the culture generating high levels of creative output and valuable IP are the future.

It seems the EU is in a catch-up race to get a piece of the action. I came across a recent report on the Lisbon Agenda that highlights the plan:

"At the beginning of the German EU Presidency in 2007, the German Federal Government placed the issue of culture and creative industries on the agenda of the informal meeting of the European Ministers of Culture in Berlin. ... In November 2006, the report "Economy of Culture in Europe", commissioned by the EU Commission, was presented. According to this report, the gross value added of the creative industries in Europe amounted to 2.6% of the GDP in 2003. This corresponds to a turnover of about EUR 654 billion in 2003.

From 2002 to 2004, employment [in creative industries] grew by 1.85%, while total employment across the EU decreased. Therefore, the creative industries are one of the driving forces of the European economy, with a potential to contribute significantly towards reaching the goal of the Lisbon Agenda to make Europe "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion."

The EU is on to something. There is an eco-system that makes a creative economy thrive. It includes for-profit and non-profit players buttressed by government policies that foster collaboration and innovation. The nation or city that gets this mix right will win the day.

While the U.S. has concentrated its energies on growing individual disciplines--filmmaking, advertising, design, publishing, the EU plans to foster a more cross-disciplinary approach.

This EU strategy is worth watching!

Hat tips to Alan Freeman, Paul Turpin and Donna Surges Tatum for the bread crumb trail.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dodge Launches Journey

The auto industry has long been a pioneer in sponsoring arts and entertainment. This spring, Chrysler's new crossover vehicle, the Dodge Journey, will cross over into online in a big way for its launch. Mark Spencer, senior manager-communications for Dodge says he'll spend 29% in interactive media, a figure that represents, "Dodge's biggest digital outlay ever in terms of total dollars and percentage of the media buy," according to Advertising Age. His online push involves portal home-page takeovers on AOL, Yahoo and MSN on April 8, 11 and 12, respectively; behavioral targeting on sites including and; and buys on search engines.

Despite the gloomy clouds that hang over Detroit these days, as long as vehicles roll off the line and into show rooms, automakers will continue to advertise and sponsor events to get their vehicles considered by consumers.

Deborah Wahl Meyer, VP-CMO of Chrysler, believes this launch is critical for Dodge. And risky given the economic climate. The Journey will be launched under the very RenGen theme "If you can dream it, do it," which appeals to the cultural consumer, who is more inner-driven and self expressive. Despite the RenGen spirit of the campaign, Dodge will spend its sponsorship marketing dollars over at the NHL and NBA, two very low performing properties in terms of ratings. No doubt this is a bow to the old school ways car dealers like to court and be courted.

Next week, I sit down with Judy George, President of Freidman Swift Associates, a market research firm that serves the automotive industry. Judy keeps the pulse of the auto-buying public and translates it for auto dealers. I will share her insights on where marketing spending is headed for automotive right here on the blog. Check back.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Financial Services Adjust their Sponsorship Marketing Strategies

The shake up in financial services may take some time to reach the marketing departments, but the credit crunch and implosion of Bear Stearns will surely affect how financial services companies brand themselves. As marketing departments move into their planning season for 2009-10, look for some trends in decision making that will affect your proposal:
1. Big will stick with big. Don't expect a major institution like Bank America to take lots of risks at the local level. They'll park their dollars where they figure it will be safe: in big institutions such as museums and performing arts venues. Film festivals and alternative, mixed-media collaborations will have to fight hard to make their case.
2. More accounts will go into review. Wachovia recently announced it is putting its account into review as it welcomes pitches from large and mid-sized ad agencies. This means lots of decisions will be put on hold until an agency and strategy can be developed.
3. Big chill from big brother. Recent changes in regulations surrounding how banks can market to consumers through its affiliates and partnering organizations creates a chill in marketing departments at banks. More regulation is expected to protect consumers from predatory marketing practices. This will put decision-making in slo-mo. Prepare for long courtship cycles.

Check back next week when I flip the coin and give you some concrete action steps to turn the economic climate into one that can work for you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

RenGen on the Road

I am in San Francisco to give a talk on the RenGen and I’ve discovered something about myself. I have a love/hate relationship with travel. Mostly, I love it. The open road, the sense of adventure, regional trends and customs to observe-- love all of that. But lately, I’ve observed a kind of low-grade existentialism creeping in. Maybe it’s the sterile hotel rooms, indifferent cabbies, hostile luggage handlers or just the general lack of familiarity I get from being away from home. The upshot is that I have to consciously guard against feeling sorry for myself. Has this ever happened to you?

This trip, I’ve hatched a plan for staving off self-pity: I will master the art of consoling myself. First, I’ll seek comfort in small ways. Take long walks through galleries, museums, and public gardens. Hike the local terrain. Eat in authentic ethnic restaurants. Arrange to meet old friends and invite them to bring someone they think I’ll enjoy.

I also intend to remain true to my Midwestern roots and never, ever to go diva. In bad situations beyond my control, I prefer instead to trust that if I bring something to someone’s attention in the nicest way possible, they’ll rise to my assistance. When this doesn’t work, and so far it has, I am prepared to do what defies pop-psychology and internalize it. Yes, suck it up. But that only works if you are also able to console yourself

When I return home to Chicago, my family will ask me how my trip went. I think I’ll grade myself based less on what happened to me, and more on how I dealt with it. In doing this, I create a kind of vibe that everyone appreciates, including me.