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Live Earth: A Lesson in Event Marketing

To borrow from an old riddle, what if a concert for global warming takes place and no one is there to witness it - does it make a sound? Obviously, that's an exaggeration, but from what I am reading about the recent Live Earth concerts, its not too far from the truth.

So why is this? Because global warming isn't immediate enough? Maybe. Because of the obvious hypocrisy of the event? Perhaps. Or was it the line-up that was uninteresting? Probably, to some degree, all of the above contributed. But maybe Live Earth was doomed to fall flat regardless, a sign of the world we live in today. Here's what I mean:

In today's world, building buzz for any event is really, really hard. I always admire the movie industry - every year they make their summer blockbusters huge events. How do they do that? They spend, piles and piles of cash. The economics of movies allows for that. But what do you do if you don't have that kind of budget?

If you're a marketing a product (or a web-site), it's actually easier. Products can sit on a shelves for long periods of time, waiting to be sold. As a result, you can do things like guerrilla PR, buzz building ad campaigns, focus campaigns to reach the mavens (a la the Tipping Point) and let the message filter through, etc., etc. If your campaign takes off immediately or in 6 months, doesn't really matter.

But that's not the case if your marketing an event, like a concert. You don't have an unlimited shelf life. You need to get everyone's attention quickly (but not too early - lest they forget about the event), otherwise the moment is literally lost. In other words, it's shock and awe marketing - hit 'em heavy (TV, internet, radio, billboards, etc., etc.) with the message for a short period of time and hope it grabs there attention. Like I said though, this type of event marketing takes a lot of money. And as a charitable event, Live Earth didn't have it. So despite the network coverage, all the celebrity endorsements you can shake a stick at, internet streaming, etc., etc., Live Earth couldn't build a buzz.

But wait, you say, Live Aid didn't suffer these problems, and they operated under the same conditions/ constraints. True. But remember, that was 1985! A huge difference. The reason marketing costs so much these days is there is no single platform for reaching an audience. In Marksonland parlance, no point for convergence and consensus. Back in 1985, with a large population continually gathering around the same few channels, it was really easy to build the buzz around an event - get people excited to tune in. Heck, make them feel like they missed history if they didn't!

I don't think anyone feels like they missed history by missing Live Earth. And that has nothing to do with Phil Collins performance this year vs. 1985. It's a reflection of our fragmented world.

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Comments (2)

Blair Lewis:

I have to disagree, in their case if you had a line-up of U2, Aerosmith, Madonna, Beyonce, ect, ect you would have instant free marketing. Sure it's expensive to market concerts, but in a charity event's case the draw is the celebrity power behind it. With Al Gore's Hollywood ties they should have been able to do a better job corralling top names. I personally don't care about global warming but would have watched U2 if I had the chance....

Nice Topix Spam of the Alyson Hannigan page! I went there to see if I could post your article, and lo!

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