CAMPAIGNS: CAAF's Halloween bash gets a boost from Arnold's buzz

PR Team: Tellem Worldwide (LA) and The Children Affected by AIDS Foundation (LA) Campaign: CAAF Halloween fundraiser Time Frame: October 2003 Budget: $12,000 plus pro bono hours

PR Team: Tellem Worldwide (LA) and The Children Affected by AIDS Foundation (LA) Campaign: CAAF Halloween fundraiser Time Frame: October 2003 Budget: $12,000 plus pro bono hours

When Los Angeles-based Tellem Worldwide agreed to help The Children Affected by AIDS Foundation (CAAF) with its annual Halloween fundraiser, the agency had no idea just how suspenseful the costume party would be. The foundation, started in 1993 by an HIV-positive Mattel executive who wanted to help kids affected by the AIDS virus, had chosen Arnold Schwarzenegger to receive an award - prior to the action star announcing his gubernatorial candidacy. While Schwarzenegger's involvement certainly helped gain media attention, it also propelled press relations to a whole new level, and left the agency uncertain how involved the celebrity politician would be. Added to that challenge was the fact that the event took place on the same evening as the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, one of the largest and most anticipated social events on the Southern California calendar. Strategy "Our main goal was to generate ticket sales for the event and promote the CAAF's mission to generate local and national publicity pre- and post-event," says Tellem VP John Tellem. To reach that goal, Tellem and his team pitched the party to media as a celebrity-studded affair that was "the biggest Halloween event of the season." The charity also runs parties in Chicago and New York the same week, so Tellem staff coordinated with PR contacts in those cities to make sure the LA event didn't hit the same press outlets, and had its own story to tell. The celebrity involvement at the LA affair, including appearances by Jamie Lee Curtis and Cindy Crawford, helped differentiate the Tinseltown bash. Tactics The CAAF chose Curtis to host the event, and Crawford served as the honorary event chair. In addition to Schwarzenegger, an award was given to actress Marlee Matlin. The agency pitched that lineup to media, but real interest remained with the Terminator- turned-governor. As soon as Schwarzenegger announced his political bid, press started calling Tellem to confirm that he would be at the event. "After [Schwarzenegger] announced he was running, we weren't sure if he was going to attend, and then after he won, we really weren't sure," said Tellem. "We did finally find out that he was coming to the event two days before. From there, it changed into almost a worldwide event. A lot of international media wanted to come. It was sort of a race to see which national outlet would confirm faster." Despite media interest, the problem posed by the Disney Concert Hall remained. It was inconceivable for local press not to cover it, and even national outlets were interested. So Tellem had to time its red-carpet coverage to allow reporters to make it to the CAAF event, and still have time to rush across town for the opening. "Our event started about two-and-a-half hours before [the Disney event]," says Tellem. "So we had the one hour, then everyone broke down and ran across town." Results "We had amazing coverage," says Tellem. "Arnold really put us over the top." Other celebrities did their share as well, though. "Jamie Lee Curtis came dressed as a cop, and looked fantastic," says Tellem, noting that most of the stars spent significant time on the red carpet giving interviews. "The event was a huge success, with media lined about 60 wide on the red carpet," added Tellem. "And the charity was a sellout, raising more than $1 million." Outlets covering the party included Access Hollywood, Extra, Inside Edition, People magazine, and In Touch. Future The Halloween party is the CAAF's major event for the year, so right now the charity isn't in PR mode. But when fall rolls around, Tellem hopes to help with the 11th annual event - most likely sans Schwarzenegger.

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