Q&A: Philly Focuses On Parkway

by , May 26, 2012, 9:45 AM
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Philadelphia is, for the first time, putting the spotlight on its top-tier museums arrayed along the newly polished necklace of Benjamin Franklin Parkway. While the "With Art Philadelphia" campaign is timed with the opening of the new Barnes Foundation museum, the campaign encompasses the Franklin, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, outlying galleries, and ultimately events, food, and culture, in a two-year campaign. 

The effort is spearheaded by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp (GPTMC), but involves over a dozen civic and cultural partners. Meryl Levitz, president and CEO of the GPTMC, talks to Marketing Daily about the Barnes, the new campaign, the revitalization of the Ben Franklin Parkway, and the big tourism picture in the City of Brotherly Love.

Q: Are Philadelphia's tourism opportunities challenged at all by the city's proximity to New York and Washington, D.C.?

A: Actually it's become the opposite: New York is our largest feeder market for visits, so our location has become an asset, especially for these recessionary times where people are doing the math and finding out how much time and money they want to spend traveling. Experience taught us that there is a ready market in New York. 

Q: Have you ever promoted the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with a campaign before? 

A: The Parkway has been there forever, but until the last few years it has not been activated the way that it is now. It has been relit, and re-landscaped. There are now sidewalk cafes, a new park, two new gardens, a new great museum. Before it was a place where you said: "Sure, it's pretty; now what do I do here?" It has become more of a destination, and we feel it is time to promote it as such. 

Q: How about the major, established Parkway museums? Is "With Art Philadelphia" a first for a unified museum campaign promoting the Parkway’s museums?

A: We have never promoted them all together like this, especially over a period of time. We have some huge museum promotions, and a number of different special exhibits that were time-limited, but this is an enduring look at a collaborative that came from the institutions themselves. In past days where they might be somewhat competitive they have now banded together and said, "Let's look at the opening of Barnes as a starting gate rather than as finish line." 

Q: Does that mean that even though it starts with the Barnes, the focus will change?

A: Yes, there are a few ways we have spanned out. One is to go more deeply into other museums we feel are blockbusters every day. And this halo around the Barnes can also be extended to them. Another extension is the number of things that are going to happen for the first time on the Parkway: an outdoor installation that's happening in September, a synchronized laser program where you can activate it via your voice via cell phone. Another extension is to not only showcase the keepers of art, but the current makers of art, who are in neighborhoods all over Philadelphia. The third direction, which "With Art" will move into over time, is the intersection between the visual arts and the performing arts. You will see a glimpse of this on Sept. 28 when the Opera Company of Philadelphia does "La Bohème," which will be simulcast on Independence Mall, with the paintings used in the garret scenes coming from the Barnes, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And it will also encompass the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts in 2013. 

Q: How does the Barnes catalyze all of this, or at least inform it?  

A: I think the Barnes designers looked at the context into which they were putting it and combined it with "Barnesian" principles, if you will: they came up with the gallery-in-a-garden, garden-in-a-gallery idea so that it gave something to the Parkway as well as absorbing the most beautiful features of the Parkway. It doesn't look like it was just put there, but that it has always been there. 

Q: How about the media strategy for all of this, going back to that question. How is that different than the regional focus?

A: This is a national and international story, so for example, we have a group of international bloggers we are bringing in. We met with them in Paris with our governor and the trade mission. This whole campaign was one of the themes of the trade mission for national and international visitation, not only for the Barnes but also for the city. On digital and social media, The VisitPhilly.com, and www.uwishunu.com (Philly’s official tourism blog) sites have reached millions of people from every state in the union. The Google AdWord grant we have been a really wonderful thing; Philly is on the "mattering map," so to speak. If we had more funding, we would also heavy up in Texas, Illinois, California, Florida and Michigan because these are states with possibilities for us because of the traffic we have seen from them online. Canada is huge for us, as are the UK, France and Germany and increasingly, Brazil.

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