Tut tour exhibits the unfortunate art of wrongfully bashing PR pros
I always enjoy returning to LA to see what sort of PR snits have unfolded while I was away. The one that caught my eye first centers on an exhibit of Egyptian antiquities at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Concerns about less-than-anticipated attendance have led to speculations about an inadequate PR and marketing campaign for the show, which features the famed King Tut. Billed as the greatest trove of treasures outside Liz Taylor's jewelry box, the exhibit attracted more than 900,000 visitors during its five-month run, but not the magic million organizers had hoped for.
Is Tut in a rut? Or could more have been done to raise awareness? Either way, at a minimum entry fee of $25 a head, the Boy King is still generating the kind of cash that only Elvis can rival in the dead idols category, reaping several million dollars for Egypt. Unsatisfied, that county's head of antiquities was quoted in the local press kicking ancient sand in the face of the buzz-makers. He blamed LACMA, along with the two national companies organizing and promoting the exhibit: Arts and Exhibitions Intl. and LA-based AEG. Their response? Bite my Tut.
John Norman, president of Arts and Exhibitions, told the LA Times that plenty was done to drum up attention, including corporate parties and media screenings. He notes that daily attendance peaked at 8,000 and the gift shop has been ringing up sales that would make any pharaoh envious. Despite complaints, the exhibit is running neck and neck with the Rolling Stones tour. And Tut couldn't carry a tune to save his life.
In Hollywood, when a star or project underperforms, whether King Tut or Queen Latifah, a finger will be pointed in the direction of the PR and marketing department. After all, a $2 million script, $20 million actor, and Oscar winning director can't possibly fail. But marketing can. Indeed, a producer of a movie I worked on told me he always began complaining about the film's publicity campaign weeks ahead of the release date. "That way, I have someone to blame if the movie fails." (It did, and he did. Blame us, that is.)
Determined to boost buzz for the Tut Tour's next stop, Ft. Lauderdale, organizers are going with a much hipper local marketing slogan: "The Original King of Bling." Should fit in quite nicely with the Spring Break wet T-shirt contests.
- Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer