CAMPAIGNS: Web Launch - NYC parks make do with no green

Client: New York City Parks Department

Client: New York City Parks Department

Client: New York City Parks Department

PR Team: New York City Parks Department, Marketing and Special Events


Campaign: ’Making the Web a Little Greener’

Time Frame: February to July 2000

Budget: dollars 20,000

The New York City Parks Department had a dilemma on its hands: how to

draw the attention of New York’s blase media to its revamped Web site -

on a shoestring PR budget.

Parks commissioner Henry Stern says the Web site

( is a brilliant way to distribute information

on Gotham’s 1,700 parks, including programs and facilities. But the

campaign’s dollars 20,000 budget made it difficult to construct a good

launch. ’It’s our job to see that the people of New York have a good

time,’ says Stern, ’but it’s not the custom to use public dollars to

promote the use of these services.’

So Stern’s scrappy in-house team turned to the private sector to get

donations in exchange for making the companies official corporate

sponsors of the parks department.


In February the agency brought in Earthlink as a sponsor for dollars

125,000 in cash, says Bradley Tusk, senior advisor in the parks

department. The money enabled it to hire Internet designer Raven

Creative, which revamped the three-year-old site. ’Internet designers

wanted to be associated with us because we are high profile, and we

realized that we could leverage that’ into a discount, says Tusk.

With funding in place, Tusk and press secretary Robert Lawson still had

to come up with an event. Rather than hold the press conference in

Central Park, they chose Duffy Square - right in the middle of glitzy

Times Square. They employed Panasonic’s AstroVision screen high atop the

square to broadcast the July 18 event, exchanging sponsorship for PSAs

and the broadcasts. The conference was also simulcast on the agency’s

Web site by e-Media - which was made the ’official Webcaster of New York

City Parks’ and given rights to 10 Webcasts of parks events.


The press event saw 65-year-old commissioner Stern - who has an

eccentric reputation already - clad in a silver costume, descending amid

fake smoke from a 20-by-30-foot black metal spider web, with the

soundtrack of 2001: A Space Odyssey in the background. When he

eventually settled at a podium, the commissioner formally launched the


With live swing and techno bands playing throughout the day, a bank of

12 Macintosh computers was available for passersby to access the


The PR team alerted the media two days before, calling the seven local

television stations and four daily newspapers. After the event, more

releases with digital photos were sent to an additional 30 Internet

media outlets.


In addition to Panasonic agreeing to run four PSAs every hour for a

month, The New York Daily News and Newsday covered the event, and The

New York Times ran a Web site review the following Sunday. ABC, CBS, Fox

and WB affiliates provided coverage, as did several local radio

stations. The second round of releases garnered few impressions, but

local cable news channel New York 1 ran a segment on the Web site three

times a day for four days. The site, which usually gets 40,000 hits a

month, received 808,000 in July.


Lawson says the agency is in negotiations to put banners promoting the

Web site in the city’s two baseball stadiums ’since we own them.’ Stern,

though happy with the campaign’s results, adds that any future events

will not involve him ’skydiving or bungee jumping.’

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