Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Thinking Back To My Week With Christie Brinkley

As I was sitting, at the invitation of a friend, through a Christie Brinkley-billed performance of the Broadway show, Chicago, last night in Durham, NC where I live, my mind drifted back more than half a lifetime ago to my first or second year as a community-destination marketing exec for Anchorage, Alaska and then to an unrelated local op-ed I read last week.

My flashback occurred during the early years of a twenty-year period now marked as the golden age of fashion photography.  As typical for anyone in my now-concluded career, I had made arrangements for the photo shoots related to an upcoming spread on Alaska in Vogue magazine which was prompted as part of a state-wide cooperative marketing effort.345882026_03d978c5ba_b

My organization’s updated curation of Anchorage as a destination had recently revealed that a visitor could experience nearly every aspect of Alaska, in or within an hour of Anchorage during just a few days.

Exploitation of this realization eventually helped open up a whole new area of tourism for the state buy during that summer, our new revelation became a godsend for the editors of Vogue because it enabled me to work with local helicopter and floatplane excursion operations to simplify the logistics for the shoot and still be visually representative of the entire state.

Both the pilots and those coordinating the shoot asked me to fly along as a liaison.  Always sitting in the back of the aircraft, next to her French boyfriend at the time (this was several years before Billy Joel) was the emerging supermodel, Christie Brinkley, who was 24 years old at the time, about six year younger than me.

Ten years older than me and now a legend was Stan Malinowski, the photographer Vogue had selected for the shoot.  It had only been six years earlier that Brinkley, a self-proclaimed “surfer girl” at the time was discovered while standing in a Paris post office.

Malinowski, my friends told me (smile), was already famous for photography for Playboy and Penthouse magazines.

First we went up by helicopter into the Chugach Mountains behind Anchorage (as shown in the image in this blog.)  I remember Christie freezing in a swim suit while being photographed in a kayak on an alpine lake and then later when the pilot touched the nose of the helicopter to a steep mountain side and then flew vertically until an incredible view of the Anchorage skyline, Cook Inlet and Mt. McKinley suddenly came into view.

As attested by her scheduled performance in Durham, where I retired several years ago after being the exec for the same type of organization here, Ms. Brinkley has many other talents than modeling and no, I wasn’t invited backstage for a reunion.

She was a no-show for that performance but her role was more than ably filled by Bianca MarroquĂ­n who had made her Broadway debut in this role in 2002.

I suspect that Vogue shoot, while memorable for me, is a distant blip in in the rear view mirror of Christie’s career.

During the performance, my mind also returned to the op-ed expertly written by a friend of mine in support of City and County incentives to convert a historic bank tower in downtown Durham into the fourth location of a 21C Museum luxury hotel.

As usual my friend’s op-ed was right on point but seemingly less inclusive and much more laden than usual with references to the downtown advocacy group he leads.  This is understandable and necessary, in my opinion, in the aftermath of a polarizing struggle to establish a special-tax-levy business improvement district.

He makes a number of excellent points about the hotel project.  I was glad to see the op-ed used some benchmarks I helped curate for the author and other downtown advocates years ago during my career.  The op-ed cites only the conservative end of the range of hotel rooms needed and in my opinion a fraction of what I bet will soon emerge.

But hotels, even one as novel as this one, are all empty when they come “out of the box” as were most of the facilities mentioned as precedents in the op-ed, including DPAC, the theater I was in last night.

Folks who focus on “bricks and mortar” forget that hotels, theaters and ballparks don’t generate traffic, it is the marketing and programming of those facilities including their ability to harvest visitor demand generated in good part by the overarching destination marketing of the community that makes them successful.

Marketing the community, including fierce protection and defense of its overarching brand is also what lowers the barriers for projects such as these by not only curating relevant data for financial institutions but directly generating up to a third of demand and often up to a third of debt service.

The benefits of the marketing and programing of a facility, aligned with the overarching marketing of the community as a whole were illustrated in a Durham News Service release recently.

The value added to the Durham economy by visitor-related attendees to the theater I attended last night was curated by the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) using input-output methodology to be $49.1 million during the just completed fiscal year, with $27 million promoted by the marketing and programing of the theater.

Visitors, including a vast majority who are drawn by other leisure and business purposes but never set foot in the theater, are also responsible for the majority of the high-performing facility’s debt service.

That visitor volume must be re-drawn and every one of the tickets resold each and every year through both the community marketing spearheaded by DCVB and the expert facility marketing by its contract management, a partnership of Nederlander and PFM, so the job is never done and competition from other communities is relentless.

The balance between supply (buildings and programming) and demand generated (visitors, residents etc.) is a fragile one but evidence is clear that is generating demand for existing facilities is what makes additional facilities feasible and sustainable.

Seeking to reinforce relevance in the minds of internal stakeholders, organizations on responsible for each side of the equation probably overstate their case.  However, neither supply or demand will work without the other and the best results result when there is mutual respect and cooperation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, I have no idea what this was about, even after reading it a few times... I guess using Christie Brinkley's name was the bait but what was the story?