Fiesta May Rhyme With Siesta ...

But Does Event Marketing Need to Be Such a Bore?

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Rochelle Newman-Carrasco Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
First off, congratulations to Peter Bellas and the folks at All Access Media for pulling off the 19th annual Fiesta Broadway, L.A.'s (and perhaps the nation's) largest Latino-focused street festival. For almost two decades, they have organized an event that attracts hundreds of thousands of consumers, spans 36 blocks, and has sponsorship and support from a veritable who's who of corporate clients and their agency partners.

Maybe it was the heat? Maybe I'm getting old? Maybe it's because I've been attending Fiesta Broadway for 19 of its 19 years (sometimes as a participant and sometimes as a spectator)? I don't know what caused it, but this year as I walked the length of Fiesta Broadway I reached my personal limit. "Enough," I cried out (to myself). "No mas!" my bilingual Panamanian-influenced brain chimed in, plagiarizing the famous words of Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran. How many "Spin the Wheels" does the world need?
Gracias Wheel

It's 2008. Marketers and agencies are engaged in conversations about, well -- engagement. Words like "interactivity," "event activation," and "experiential" are all the rage. So, at the end of the day -- or at the early morning start of any given festival -- how can that still wind up looking like "a booth," "a banner" and "a spin-the-wheel?"

It can be argued that this low-tech spinning circle of fascination has a magnetism that cannot be denied. Consumers do line up in lemming like fashion just to grab a protruding pole and give it a whirl. Then together, event staff and consumer stare at the hypnotic disc.

QS Wheel
Talk about engagement! Together they await the moment of truth -- the moment when a pointing arrow will designate which one of several prizes will be theirs to take home. Hooray! You've won! You too will go home with a random prize -- probably something with a logo on it.

I would suggest an industry-wide ban on the use of Spin Wheels, but I believe in freedom of whatever. Beside, I'm pretty sure spin-the-wheels are virtually indestructible. I saw some this year that have undoubtedly been around for more than 19 years.

Once in a while, just to freshen things up, spin-the-wheels get a face lift. Telemundo, for example, was using the new fangled acrylic-window wheel -- the kind that lets you feature pictures of the prizes -- as opposed to the old fashion write and wipe version. Now that's progress.

My personal favorite was the Ford Spin the Wheel (and I do mean this sincerely because it was a creative way of staying focused -- no pun intended -- on the brand). They took an actual Ford Focus and put an arrow on its bumper, then they set it on a movable platform that made it possible to spin a gazillion pound vehicle. On an outer circle there were images of relevant prizes -- such as free gas. Additionally, this was but one of the elements that made up a highly interactive auto-focused consumer experience.

The Spin the Wheel that confused me the most, at least at first glance, was the Latino 5-a-Day campaign wheel that prominently features a peach (or is it a nectarine), an avocado and a baseball mitt. It took me a while to figure out how baseball mitts fall into a food group. At closer look I came to understand that physical activity is also part of the program. I told you, it was hot out.

And speaking of health and physical activity, I couldn't resist this photo of a possible Kix cross-promotion with Monster energy drinks. Mom and kids get their Kix -- and dad does too!

There were, of course, marketers and agencies that pushed themselves beyond "spin-the-wheel-itis." Brands like Ikea, Washington Mutual, Disney, Charmin, the U.S. Army and several others, did indeed create environments and experiences and engagement. I hope they saw a payoff for their creativity because that's what will keep event marketing activities moving into the 21st century. And it's not just a matter of budget. It's easy to think that smaller budgets have to stick with small thinking. Not true. Small budgets and big ideas are not mutually exclusive.

So come on folks. I like to spin a wheel as much as the next guy, but take a year off. Challenge yourselves to come up with some other line forming addiction that moves slowly enough to allow for one-on-one dialogue with prize-hungry consumers patient enough to stand in endless lines (in sweltering heat). Do something that serves your brand because I bet if you ask some of those lined up consumers what booth they were standing in, they wouldn't even know.

P.S. One of the longest lines at the festival was at a food booth selling the meat off this. Some of you may see animal carcass. Others may see a missed sponsorship and logo-ing opportunity. The possibilities are endless.

Sadly, one of the shortest lines at the festival was for voter registration. Maybe a Spin the Wheel could solve the Democratic primaries. Heck, why not adopt it for the general election? In some states, it's as good a system as what's there now.
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