Atlanta Museum Ditches Pro-Bono

As it embarks on a major renovation, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta wants to get more attention from its ad agency. So it has dropped its pro-bono relationship with J. Walter Thompson and put Huey/Paprocki on retainer.

The museum will use a portion of each exhibition budget to pay the Atlanta agency. Those budgets are funded by sponsorship grants of up to $2 million per exhibition.

“When you’re in a pro-bono relationship, you’re down on the pecking order,” said Tom Rowland, client manager of marketing and communications. “We’re in a competitive consumer landscape where people have a lot of choices.”

Attendance at the High is steady at around 350,000 visitors a year, but research shows many in Atlanta take the museum for granted, agency partner Ron Huey said. The shop plans an outdoor campaign beginning in September to raise awareness. Radio and print ads will back major exhibitions. “We want a single core message emanating from this department,” Rowland said.

The High is closed until August for renovations that will double the museum’s size by 2005, making increased membership a must. As the renovation nears its completion, ads will tout the new look.

“We need to lead up to the reopening by changing the perception among consumers that the museum is more than something nice to have and make it a part of their lives,” Huey said. “A lot of that means explaining what it does.”