When former poly-sci major Ann Fryer decided that she “didn't really want to storm Capitol Hill” after all, the self-proclaimed “resident party planner amongst my friends” opted to turn her personal passions into a career. Her first event-marketing gig was with New York-based US Concepts, where she worked on the firm's Diageo account, the big high-end liquor company. “I cut my teeth on the Johnnie Walker business, where US Concepts paved the way for consumers around the country to experience this legendary brand in a multimedia environment through technology and tastings,” she recounts.
In 2005, Fryer made the move to an in-house role with Absolut Spirits Co., now Pernod Ricard USA. “And the rest,” notes the now-manager of event marketing, “as they say, is history.” And a lot of hard work, of course.
That work has gotten just a little bit harder of late. “There just isn't the monetary allocation that there has been in the past,” notes Fryer, who has seen her annual budget for direct-to-consumer events slashed, even while additional events are added to her schedule. “We just have to find practical ways to make our budgets work for us and tap into vendors who are willing to play within our constructs.”
Which is exactly what Fryer has done with events such as the Absolut Mango launch in New York last year. For the event, Fryer and team created a lively but not extravagant “Absolut Mango grove” in the heart of the city, complete with a mango tree and celebrity endorsement by Latina actress Roselyn Sanchez. The multi-day bash communicated the brand's “underlying marketing message that ‘In An Absolut World, True Taste Comes Naturally’ — an homage to our utilization of real fruit and no artificial sweeteners” — while simultaneously “tapping into our Hispanic consumer base and leveraging their strong association with this fruit flavor,” Fryer says.
Perhaps her most memorable event to date, she notes, was the December “Absolut Drinks” campaign rollout in New York, which, in the competitive spirits market, challenged her to “help establish Absolut again as a cool, hip, relevant brand.” With less than three weeks' lead time and a guest count that swelled from 250 to more than 800 in the run-up to the event, Fryer and her team brought to life — through striking visual vignettes and perfectly planned entertainment — Absolut's new “Classic Cocktails” ads, shot by famed fashion photographer Ellen von Unwerth.
Fryer attributes much of the event's success not to opulent decor or high-priced headliners but to small, critical details such as a well-planned music playlist and fresh-squeezed drink mixes. “It was such a labor of love,” she says, “I actually cried at the end.”
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“What suits me best for this job is my lifelong love of details. I think by nature event planners have to be exceptionally organized and borderline-obsessed with making lists. We revel in checking off ‘to-dos’ and paying attention to the particulars because, yes, at the end of the day, music, ambience and the all-natural ingredients you use in your cocktails do matter — all of these are elements that create memorable events and set you apart from the competition.”
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“I think if you are truly passionate about what you do, those things you deem the ‘difficult’ parts of your job become interesting challenges that can give you a sense of accomplishment once they have been overcome.”