THE MARKETING 100: TIMES SQUARE: GRETCHEN DYKSTRA

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Gretchen dykstra, 49, had a story to tell about Times Square in New York City- but very little advertising money with which to tell it.

Instead, the president of the Times Square Business Improvement District decided she would piggyback the Times Square improvement story on New Year's Eve and other special events to draw media attention.

Ms. Dykstra's efforts parlayed Times Square from a sorry site to one that serves as the centerpiece of New York's revitalization.

"We changed Times Square," says Ms. Dykstra. "We made it clean, safe and friendly. But if we didn't tell the world that change was coming, and had come, the people wouldn't give us another shot."

One of Ms. Dykstra's events was held after the streets were thoroughly cleaned in the district. She let everyone know they were clean enough to eat off by arranging a picnic for city sanitation workers. The workers arrived at Times Square-spiffy in their bright-red jumpsuits-and lunched on the streets.

"How else do you tell people the streets are clean," she asks?

She also coordinated Taste of Times Square featuring 34 restaurants in July. That event attracted 10,000 people.

One of her earliest events was Broadway on Broadway, featuring 100 cast members performing songs from 16 shows on the street during the 1996 Democratic National Convention.

"Our board knew the media would be here for the [Democratic National] convention," says Ms. Dykstra. "And what better attraction than Broadway to draw attention to what had happened in Times Square."

The event will be repeated and broadcast internationally in 1998.

Ms. Dykstra says she recognized the turning point when 1996 statistics showed a drop in crime and a jump in tourism, hotel occupancy and Broadway attendance.

"Businesses followed after that-when Virgin opened its megastore we knew we were close," she says.

"The word is out now and I haven't run into anyone in the last two years who hasn't heard of all our good news. We are back in the good graces of the public."

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