Marketing a metropolis

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Mary Ann Jackson is in the midst of a colossal marketing project in which she’s meshing a new millennium theme not with a product or service, but with a city.

More specifically, a once in 1,000 years blowout celebration, in which Akron—with 200 other cities across the U.S. and in Sweden, New Zealand and England—is taking the lead in commemorating the new millennium.

It’s a soiree called First Night, and the international theme shared by all 200 cities for the millennium is “Share the light, ignite the spirit.” First Night, which made its Akron debut three years ago, is a phenomenon sweeping the country in which downtown businesses and organizations transform their office spaces into party sites for a festive, family-oriented, alcohol-free celebration of the arts. Akron’s event draws thousands of people from across northeast Ohio.

As Akron First Night executive director, Jackson is knee-deep in marketing the First Night 2000 event. One millennium marketing piece was just unveiled at Canal Park Stadium at the recent First Night. On the stroke of midnight Dec. 31, the portable, 17 feet long by 10 feet high digital “millennium clock” began ticking down the days and hours left in the last year of the last decade of this century.

The installation is co-funded by the City of Akron and KeyCorp. Jeff Mills, community re-investment manager at KeyBank N.A. in Akron, says Jackson’s idea of designing the clock as a transportable marketing piece was ingenious.

“From a marketing standpoint, you’re always looking for the biggest bang for your buck. Since this is something we know will be a year-long event and the clock will be continually moved to various sites and events throughout the city, we’ll be getting our name out all year long. We can also focus some other marketing activities around the clock,” Mills says.

Since the millennium marketing piece is a joint endeavor between KeyBank and the city, what happens when they both want the clock at the same time? “I don’t think we’ll fight over it,” Mills laughs.