In our experience it’s fairly rare to encounter a PR campaign for a well-established museum—and even rarer to see one as creatively unconventional as this year’s publicity push celebrating the 20th anniversary of Washington, D.C.’s Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The boldest step by Chicago-based “experiential marketing” group agencyEA, which created the campaign in collaboration with museum officials, involved the co-option of Neo-Nazi terminology: Curious web browsers entering the URL ThirdReich.com will find themselves redirected to the museum’s 12-language Holocaust Encyclopedia. The museum’s directors say that they secured the domain name to educate those who might be looking for more controversial content.
The agency also adopted a very provocative tone for its print and digital ads. One begins with the tagline “What If Hitler Had Access to the Internet?” and goes on to promote a workshop on the theme “technology in the hands of the haters” addressing the web-fueled rise of Nazi sympathizers like Norwegian murderer Anders Breivik. The campaign’s theme is “Never again. What you do matters”, and it’s a brilliant way of bringing the memories of the Holocaust into the present and making sure the event remains fresh in the minds of younger generations.
These digital messaging innovations are only the most visible aspect of a well-planned campaign.
Museum directors also scheduled a tour featuring four one-day events in the American cities with the largest populations of Holocaust survivors. Last weekend’s kick-off event in Boca Raton, Florida included 200 survivors and attracted thousands of visitors from around the state.
Chief marketing officer Lorna Miles explains the reason for the project:
“I do feel that the museum has an extraordinary brand, and that its reputation is impeccable…my job…is not just to protect that brand, but also to promote it. Hate on the Internet is on the rise, anti-Semitism is on the rise, Holocaust denial is on the rise. The relevance and importance of the museum…has never been greater.”
We’d call the campaign a success, because we find ourselves trying to remember our one visit to the museum and wondering when we might have a chance to go again. All institutions in need of a re-branding should take note.