FOR THE HONG KONG Travel Bureau's re-branding launch, it wasn't just the meaning of the message — that today's Hong Kong is a dynamic fusion of old and new, East and West — but the volume of the voice that mattered. “The event had to scream out what this new brand was,” says Megan Reynolds of Extraordinary Events, New York, which produced the press event last year. For Reynolds and team, getting the idea across loud and clear meant taking advantage of — and being vulnerable to — some of today's most advanced media technology.
New York may be brimming with stellar event sites, but for Reynolds' $250,000 event, with the client's brand-new branding video as its centerpiece, only Times Square filled the bill.
Anywhere in the world, when “people see a picture of Times Square, they know exactly what it is,” Reynolds explains. The fact that this location features an array of video displays, including the massive Reuters news service screen — “one of the only screens that you could rent with an event venue right across the street,” she points out — sealed the deal.
That venue was ABC Studios' “Good Morning America” set, perched on the edge of Times Square. But according to Reynolds, it was the studio's most desirable feature that also posed its most unnerving challenge. “The Reuters digital billboard is a very precise piece of equipment,” Reynolds says. “However, it loops [content] every 30 seconds. You can't loop less than 30-second intervals, and you can't cut off mid-loop.” To make the constraints of the technology work with her plan to stage a stunning reveal of the client's video on the huge screen — visible directly through the studio's window — Reynolds had to rely on both faith and fortitude.
The reveal centered on an illusion: Hong Kong dignitaries would pull the lever on an old-fashioned radio “on air” box at the exact moment that the video began, creating the impression that they were controlling the launch.
Rehearsing the participants was just one small part of getting the effect right. Reynolds also had to coordinate her on-site technical director and stage manager to communicate in real time with Reuters' analog video technician and digital template technician, stationed in the building across the street from the studio, to ensure that the launch timing was exact. In addition, the event's master of ceremonies had to be cued through an earpiece to make sure the lever-pulling crew made its move precisely at the end of one 30-second template. “Otherwise, we'd have to be waiting another 30 seconds,” Reynolds explains.
Despite the difficulties — which included script changes demanded by the client only moments before the event doors opened — the “Live It, Love It” video starring Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan launched without a hitch, though not without some pulse-racing moments.
For his part, Tom Bercu, who represented the Hong Kong Travel Bureau in New York and worked closely with Extraordinary Events during preparation, says surviving tense moments is more about letting go than holding on. “I've learned to focus on things I can control,” he notes, “because having my eyes glued to the [screen] to see when it would happen, I'm not doing anyone any good.”
IN THE MIX
Accompanying the high-visibility media presentation were food, beverage, decor and entertainment elements designed to enhance the high-decibel brand message.
Highlights included custom “Golden Bauhinia” cocktails — champagne concoctions tinted the rosy color of Hong Kong's traditional Bauhinia flower — and dim sum served on sleek metal trays decorated with the delicate blooms. Reynolds adds that many of the 200 guests also gave high marks to the party's main musical performance — a nine-piece band of Asian and American musicians that offered a mix of styles, including American jazz played on traditional Asian instruments.
The 90-minute event may seem short, but the three weeks her team had to plan it seemed much shorter by comparison, Reynolds notes. “Had we not been working with a tourism bureau, the lead time would not have been so bad,” she explains. “But there wasn't one person approving everything — it was a committee, a government.” In this case, she says, “everything” included fabric samples, plants, and renderings of every prop and decor item — all of which required client approval.
While the international planning process often proved grueling, Bercu says, “Working with Extraordinary Events made it a great experience. On their end, there was no chaos, no confusion. We had a good time even in the bad times.”
Extraordinary Events, New York 333 Seventh Ave., Fifth Floor, New York, NY 10001-5004; 212/937-1084; www.extraordinaryevents.net
Turn to page 144 for a list of resources for this event.
DIM SUM AND THEN SOME
FROM THE EAST
Bean Curd Puff
FROM THE WEST
Cornmeal-Crusted Crab Cakes Souffléd Boursin Cheese Tart Peppered Tenderloin of Beef