PR Team: Billian Publishing (Atlanta) and Duffey Communications (Atlanta) Campaign: Masks 2002 Time Frame: March 2002 - ongoing Budget: $10,000-$15,000 per event (eight events in 2002)The luxury-art market is generally driven by a small group of high-net-worth consumers with disposable income. But the current recession has luxury consumers spending less on art. In turn, galleries have spent less on ads, posing a unique threat to Arts & Antiques magazine. Atlanta-based Billian Publishing, owner of Arts & Antiques, has a long history of using special events to promote its titles. "We bring advertisers together to mingle with readers so they're connecting more than just through our pages," says Billian president and COO Jay Perkins. However, new market realities required the group to reach beyond its usual formula. Strategy Duffey Communications was brought in to help Billian find a way to forge a connection between art galleries and the magazine that would not only encourage consumers to spend in the galleries, but convince the galleries to buy ads in Arts & Antiques. They also wanted to involve local charities, and invite the participation of a major national sponsor. "Conventional wisdom was this strategy would dilute the promotional value for the magazine," says Lee Duffey, founder of Duffey Communications. "We felt a counter-intuitive approach was needed to entice the galleries to participate." Tactics Duffey and Billian put together a series of events at art galleries in cities across the US, matching local charities with each gallery, and landing Lexus as the national sponsor. Each gallery held an auction of masks hand-painted by celebrities ranging from Oprah Winfrey to Prince Charles to Elton John. The masks were procured through the Mask Project, a nonprofit organization that recruits celebrity artists, and provides the masks for auctions to benefit the National Children's Cancer Society (NCCS). To draw the right demographic to the auctions in each city, the mailing lists of the charities and local Lexus dealers were added to those of the magazine and the host gallery to mine the widest field of prequalified attendees. This strategy synthesized the needs of the gallery, the magazine, the charity, and Lexus to gain exposure to a wider pool of luxury buyers. "It really was a win-win strategy all around," says Megan Gajdos of Duffey Communications. The events themselves were structured as either live or silent auctions, according to the desires of the host gallery, with bidders allowed to decide whether their purchase would benefit the local charity or the NCCS. Media relations provided by Duffey, including a VNR on the Mask Project, helped build excitement for the invitation-only events. Media outlets in each city were offered exclusives on the events that included contributions of painted masks by their own personalities. This ensured strong media coverage, in addition to heightened exposure for the galleries. All of the events were planned with enough lead time to gain coverage by metro magazines, as well as the major publications and electronic media in each city. Results Between $10,000 and $21,000 in funds were raised from bids ranging from $350-$3,000 at each auction. As far as serving Billian's needs, 80% of the gallery hosts became new advertisers in Arts & Antiques, filling the gaps left by other advertisers. "Unlike our competition, we have been able to go through the last year without losing one staff member. In fact, we've been able to add two staffers," says Perkins. Future Billian and Duffey plan to continue staging gallery art auctions of the Mask Project throughout 2003.