Zen in the City, Freer-Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC

Freer -Sackler Galleries Zen in the City CampaignFreer Sackler Ad for Zen in the City Campaign

Situation: The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery needed a strategic traffic-building and awareness marketing campaign.

Backstory: Traditionally, the galleries had marketed the individual shows and exhibits to gain museum traffic. Recognizing the galleries unique location, just steps from one of the city’s busiest Metro stops, and the appeal of the building and courtyard, I chose to create a theme that would position the museums as a destination.

Creative solution: The recommended strategy was to present the galleries as a place of enlightenment and discovery in the midst of the National Mall. The “Zen in the City” theme playfully suggests what you will find once at the galleries.

The positioning statement, “A Place to Contemplate. Life and Art” supports this theme and builds to support the location as a destination. Copy was intentionally kept at a minimum, stressing the connection with the Smithsonian Institution and its position as the “National Museum of Asian Art.”

To create a “picture” in the mind’s eye, radio was chosen as the means to best launch the campaign. The recorded “Zen in the City” Radio spot ran on WTOP 1500AM, 107FM, 620AM and WASH 97.5FM. Metro Traffic 15-second “live read” spots ran in drive time and peak listening times.

See full size imageZen in the City Radio Spot

The simple bold “Zen in the City” concept was then translated into print. GoCard® post cards appeared at 192 locations including some of the areas trendiest restaurants. Bus shelters in 37 locations, including prime spots in front of the MCI Center, Hecht’s downtown, Connecticut Avenue and Calvert, and in Georgetown, U Street Corridor and K Street ran through November 2001. Black and white advertisement placements in various local, high visibility publications rounded out the advertising campaign.

Subsequently, the campaign was translated to the official web site featuring “Zen in the City: You’ve Arrived” and to everything from press releases to employment classifieds, from gift shop items like mugs to carrier bags.

Results: This campaign launched the week of 9/11. The tragedy was devastating to the psyche of the entire country. The Washington, DC area was particularly hard hit in light of the events surrounding the attacks. However, as “life went on,” and the campaign ran, the public relations manager of the Freer-Sackler tracked visitor numbers, and though the Smithsonian was seeing huge drops in attendance, by as much as 40%, the Freer-Sackler’s visitor numbers were off by 27%. In addition, volunteers were stationed periodically to ask visitors “why they came to the museum” or did they see messages about the museum which offered informal tracking data as well.

Winner: American Association of Museums, campaign (2001)
Winner: Silver Quill Award, International Association of Business Communicators, (IABC)

(Creative Director, copywriter: Gary James; Graphic Designers: Jamie Stockie, John Bowen for
Tim Kenny Marketing, Bethesda, MD)

Rebranding | Print | Radio | POP | Merchandising | Outdoor