Jared Witt - August 27, 2018
Haut Publicité Inc., a sleek new outfit specializing in brand marketing and high end corporate promotion, had moved into the area and wanted to demonstrate what they could do for local executives. So they decided to throw a community festival at the downtown boardwalk. About a month out, their social media staff start plugging targeted invites to all the high end neighborhoods, and sales reached out to local client-based firms and real estate moguls.
A couple weeks went by and they started to grow concerned over the lackluster response on the event page. Lots of “no” responses, several “maybes,” but very few solid “yes”-es. The promotions team started reaching out directly to business contacts and influencers in the community with the script, “Hello, my name is ____, just wanted to make sure you knew about…” The responses they got weren’t negative, but they weren’t that helpful either.
The law firms all worked with a clientele too specific for broad based marketing. Everyone in the tech industry had already contracted with another marketing firm. The major hospital systems handled everything in house. And all the local athletes and celebrities had been advised by their image and PR coaches never to commit to an inaugural event like this in case it should flop. Even the local news pundits and Instagram models had already filled up their calendars with weekend golf tournaments and ribbon cuttings.
With one week to go, the CEO of the firm was in full on panic mode, to say nothing of her ego, which was more than a little bruised. Her wrinkled clothes and makeup from the day before suggested she hadn’t slept. She called an emergency meeting with the only staff she hadn’t already dedicated elsewhere, the interns. “Listen. Go to the college campuses and find any student who could use a hoagie. Go to the movie theaters, the malls, the fast food joints, and invite all the hourly staff. Go find a struggling musician and tell him he’s hired. We need to fill this park up or we’re gonna look like idiots!”
The morning before the event, the interns came back into her office. “Ma’am we hit every place you told us to. They’re all coming, but we still won’t even be at half capacity.”
This flustered her even further. “Then go to the free clinics, the homeless shelters, the recovery programs.”
“Ma’am, I’m not sure the people we find in the homeless shelters will be able to pay the event cover.”
“Oh, we’re way past event covers. We’re just trying to save face here. We need warm bodies. Hell, if Satan wants a free snow cone then go take a flyer to hell!” Her cadence became very staccato at this point, and she started clapping her hands at no one in particular. Guyslessthantwentyfourhoursletsgo!”
The sun rose the next day. A couple rough looking guys showed up, unsure if they were in the right place at first. Then some skinny sophomores from the nearby state school, asking if there will be breakfast burritos. A few dozen more came around the corner. Then a few dozen more. A line started to form at the entrance and they needed to send more ticket takers to the front.
By noon, the park was packed. Bear claw bits stuck to unkempt beards. Pi Beta Phis danced beside high school dropouts to bad 90s cover songs. A makeshift grocery cart parking station was devised for those who couldn’t travel light. One paranoid Vietnam vet seized the opportunity to relive his glory days as a street performer and the laughter and applause of the audience actually seemed to calm him down a bit.
Everyone rejoiced, for this party didn’t feel like just another corporate come-on.
As she looked out upon the bedlam she’d unleashed, the CEO couldn’t help but chuckle to herself. And just then, a crazy idea whispered to her.
The firm has since rebranded as Great Banquet Inc. They are sponsored by small grants, independent donors, churches, and a few public agencies. Their monthly “Truly Free” festivals help the local service community keep tabs on the whereabouts of their homeless clients, identify areas of greatest need, and most importantly, they invite the middle class public to overcome class stigma and discover their wider community.
Great Banquet will never be the Fortune 500 marketing firm she had once envisioned. But the parties are a lot more fun. And she sleeps like a baby, these days.
Cheers and Peace,
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