CAMPAIGNS: Multimedia PR - Dan Klores builds a buzz for 'JAZZ'

Client: General Motors (Detroit) and Ken Burns (Walpole, NH)

Client: General Motors (Detroit) and Ken Burns (Walpole, NH)

Client: General Motors (Detroit) and Ken Burns (Walpole, NH)

PR Team: Dan Klores Communications (New York)

Campaign: JAZZ

Time Frame: January 2000 - January 2001

Budget: More than dollars 250,000 (including retainer)

'Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life,' insists jazz drummer Art Blakey. Perhaps that's true, but albums once considered America's hottest are more likely gathering dust than issuing a siren call to Americans raised in a culture where rock and rap reign.

Therein lay the challenge for Dan Klores Communications in representing General Motors, a sponsor of JAZZ, Ken Burns' latest documentary for PBS. GM wanted exposure for Burns and greater recognition of its sponsorship, which meant the agency had to build a significant audience for the film, despite that fact that its subject matter lacked mainstream appeal.


Burns' documentary shows that the story of jazz is as much about American culture as it is about the music, which, according to agency president Dan Klores, helped broaden JAZZ's appeal.

The strategy called for orchestrating a steadily building buzz. 'Our philosophy from the beginning was to handle this like an election campaign,' maintains Klores.

The agency reached out to opinion-makers, the news media and the general public in the months leading up to the first episode's airing in January 2001. The key was to build partnerships with companies and organizations that had clientele and supporters who were likely to be interested in JAZZ.


In spring 2000, special screenings of JAZZ were held at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York.

Then in the summer, Dan Klores sought traditional coverage from TV and music editors. But the agency predicted that some jazz critics might attack the film because it didn't mirror their views. So it broadened the audience to include business and political opinion-leaders.

Letters and JAZZ postcards were sent to 2,000 media and nonmedia opinion-leaders; and a tape of one episode was sent to 300 influential people, including Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Tapes also were sent to large retirement communities, which screened them at social events and fund-raisers. And a screening took place in late August at the Harlem Abyssinian Baptist Church in conjunction with the fund-raiser 'Harlem in the Hamptons.'

A September press event announced the heavy hitters promoting JAZZ, focusing on GM and including coverage of its partnerships with the NBA,, American Airlines, Starbucks, Knopf and the United Negro College Fund. The NBA played jazz during half-time activities and showed JAZZ trailers on scoreboards in select arenas, while Starbucks played music from the film, displayed JAZZ posters and sold the five-CD soundtrack in its 3,000 stores.

In November, Burns embarked on a promotional tour of 14 cities to generate media interest in the newly released soundtrack and book.


An early coup occurred when New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote about JAZZ in July, six months before it aired.

Then in early January, just prior to its release, the film got media attention from Newsweek, Time, NBC's Today show, CBS' Saturday Early Show and CBS News Sunday Morning.

Competitors Columbia Records and Universal Studios' Verve Music Group agreed to jointly issue the JAZZ CD set, which got attention from publications such as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Detroit News and Free Press and USA Today.

JAZZ drew a 3.5% Nielsen rating. An estimated 4.2 million households tuned into its first two episodes, smaller audiences than those generated for Burns' The Civil War and Baseball, which cover more mainstream subjects.

But New York Times television writer Jim Rutenberg asserted JAZZ's early episodes drew twice the normal PBS prime-time audience.

The JAZZ soundtrack went gold, and the book recently cracked The New York Times best-seller list.


PBS affiliates will be able to rebroadcast JAZZ, and the station is lining up broadcast dates abroad.

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