Superstar's role gets CES crowd Gaga over Polaroid

Polaroid's CMO Jon Pollock explains that the company emerged from bankruptcy last May ready to revitalize the 70-year-old brand.

Client: Polaroid
PR agency: Atomic PR
Campaign: Polaroid Goes Gaga at CES
Duration: Dec. 1, 2009 - January 2010
Budget: Under $100,000 (not including Lady Gaga's contract)

Polaroid's CMO Jon Pollock explains that the company emerged from bankruptcy last May ready to revitalize the 70-year-old brand. Atomic PR was awarded AOR status for PR in November, and William Morris Endeavor was tapped to lead marketing. The team debuted the brand's new direction, which includes a long-term collaboration with Lady Gaga, at January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

"Despite our challenges, there is still amazing affinity toward the brand," Pollock says. "[But] we had to make Polaroid relevant to a younger audience. We look at it as if we're a 70-year-old startup - we're changing our strategy, products, and identity [in a way that's] still building on our legacy. We're not afraid to take calculated risks."

The team brought in Lady Gaga to take a creative director position at Polaroid and develop a line of imaging products. Pollock says Gaga's "off the charts" relevance to young audiences and her love of the brand made her a perfect fit.

A media Q&A with Gaga was set for CES' opening day, January 7, in Polaroid's booth. The partnership was kept secret to generate the most impact.

Leading up to CES, the team conducted aggressive outreach to financial and business media, emphasizing Polaroid's ability to maintain market share and brand loyalty despite legal woes.

"To set the framework for where Polaroid is today, we had to educate and clarify messaging with business media," explains Rachel Rogers, VP and MD at Atomic LA. "Then audiences could embrace the Gaga partnership in a more relevant way."

After laying the groundwork with financial and business media, the team teased Polaroid enthusiast bloggers about new products and the forthcoming Gaga announcement and appearance at CES.

"The blogosphere blew up," says Rogers. "That led to print and broadcast media wanting to know what we were going to do."

Starting January 4, the team gave top-tier outlets the embargoed announcement. The embargo was lifted the night of January 5 after news leaked that Gaga would appear at a competitor's CES booth. Lifting the embargo also allowed reporters to talk to Polaroid executives about the relationship at a January 6 press conference.

CNBC was given an exclusive prerecorded video interview with Gaga discussing her creative director role and her passion for Polaroid. It aired January 7, and CNBC then distributed it globally. B-roll of another Gaga interview was sent to other outlets and posted to an FTP site.

Atomic posted video of Gaga's CES appearance and the CNBC interview on a YouTube channel. The team also created a Polaroid CES Twitter page to communicate news and booth activity to bloggers, journalists, and Polaroid fans.

Other notables, including portrait photographer Maurizio Galimberti, and Polaroid executives kept momentum up in the booth after Gaga's appearance.

In recent years, Pollack notes that CES activity typically generated 300 million impressions for Polaroid, which was considered successful. This effort garnered more than 800 million in outlets such as CNN, NPR, and The Washington Post.

Atomic reports that Google Analytics data shows average weekly traffic to rose 61% the week of January 3, compared to average weekly traffic in the latter part of 2009, including holiday-season spikes. Rogers says tweets mentioning Polaroid during CES peaked at more than 20,000 per day.

The team will promote new product launches this year, including co-branded ones with Gaga. It will also roll out details to the media about Gaga doing her job as creative director over the next several months.

PRWeek's View
Teaming with Gaga is bold. Bringing her in-house, as opposed to simply having her plug the brand, was smart - especially considering that there's quite a crowd of brands orbiting her. The union could certainly deliver unparalleled engagement with younger audiences - if she's truly committed, if multiple endorsements don't sour her audience, and if programs are executed well. Announcing at CES clearly paid off, and the team executed perfectly. Laying the groundwork with business media first was prudent, as was lifting the embargo.

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