With all the water filling up the W Chicago Lakeshore, guests at the hotel's opening bash may have thought the place had sprung a leak. But Frank Goldstin says the wet stuff was all part of a grand plan to brand the city's hot new property.
“Because the hotel is right on the lake front and provides a great view, everything was based on water,” says the CEO of Chicago-based G/M! Productions, which produced the property's 2002 launch.
Arriving attendees got their feet wet with a lobby display of live models dressed (and undressed) to represent water-theme zones on the hotel's upper floors. Closed-circuit plasma screen broadcasts of the action upstairs further enticed entrants and “created a ton of movement,” according to Goldstin.
As they ascended the hotel's floors through the event, guests encountered the “Steam” zone, a misty purgatory-theme space populated by costumed “fallen angel” characters and caged live alligators. On Floor 7, guests got “Wet” — a zone that included a Plexiglas-covered pool and go-go dancers in showers. At the party's apex in rooftop bar Altitude, owned by Rande Gerber of L.A.'s Skybar fame, the “Chill” zone featured servers in fur bikinis and “everything built out of ice — every buffet, every bar, everything,” Goldstin says.
Not just an eyeful of splashy theme decor, the W opening doubled as a fund-raiser, collecting more than $150,000 for local community organization Chicago Cares. According to Goldstin, the decision to position the party as a charity event was right on the money. “W was very smart in knowing that when they were going to come into Chicago and open this property, partnering with that charity was going to give them the ample coverage they wanted,” he says.
Pete Zudyk, W Chicago director of sales and marketing, adds that adding a fund-raising element to the event, provided “a great opportunity to work with the community.” And doing a good turn for the new hotel's hometown didn't just bring in local leaders, he says. “We had radio coverage, we had two TV stations come out — one wound up broadcasting live from here.” All told, the event scored a whopping 9 million press impressions, according to W public relations firm Golin Harris. “It was phenomenal,” Zudyk says.
G/M! Productions 308 W. Erie, Second Floor, Chicago, IL 60610; 312/397-9100; www.gmproductions.com