Bingo: Amazon Advertising Takes On Beach Blanket Babylon

San Francisco Shop Is Growing To Suit Its Name

By Published on .

Forget the Golden Gate Bridge, the Castro or the cable cars. Amazon Advertising's new client is one of San Francisco's most famous home grown attractions: Beach Blanket Babylon, the long running, quirky musical revue/pop culture spoof.

The show, which opened in 1974 and has been performed eight times a week ever since, is an updated tale of Snow White and her quest for true love. Local favorite Val Diamond is still belting out "San Francisco open your Golden Gate" under huge and fabulous hats--the most famous depicting a miniature city skyline, electric lights and all.

Despite the company's continual updating of gags and music, Beach Blanket Babylon is getting concerned about filling seats with millennials, not just baby boomers and locals buying tickets for visiting relations. "They don't want to just be known for the hats," said Millie Olson, an Amazon Advertising co-founder with Lynda Pearson. Design shop Pentagram is also working on the assignment, which will include a redesign of the Beach Blanket Babylon website.

Amazon, founded by two tall women who named the place after a not-so-nice nickname they were called as school girls, sold 35% interest in the shop to Leo Burnett in 2002, which subsequently became part of the Publicis Group. Amazon now has 25 employees, including "permalancers"--permanent freelancers.

Clients include Kellogg's Kashi. It also does work for a feminine protection brand in Latin America. In a place where women are the company's specialty target, and where employees wear high, high heels, what the agency needs, Ms. Olson said, is a car. Not just one car, but a car account. To that end, the principals are heading to New York this spring for a series of media meetings arranged by a newly-hired public relations executive.

In some ways, the shop's medium size has put it in a place where it is too big for small accounts, and too small for really large ones. It's been frustrated with seeking out new business through online agency search resources. "There's a lot of work you have to do before you're contacted," said Ms. Olson of documentation required by online agency finder sites. "It's like always being dressed for the prom and hoping you'll get asked."

Among the possible moves under consideration: a tighter link with other Publicis companies such as the Kaplan Thaler Group.
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