Monday, September 8, 2008

A Big Event That Came Off Beautifully

Here's a little event planning riddle for you: What's big, beautiful, and has consumed my life over the last month--even keeping me up at night? Nope, it's not a baby--at least not the kind you coo at in her crib. This baby's called BOBA - the clever name that Landor (a local design and advertising agency) invented for Procter & Gamble's "Best of Beauty Awards."

BOBA is an Awards Presentation for 350 of P&G's best and brightest marketers and agency partners (the people who make all the commercials), book-ended by a pre-award show Cocktail Hour and a post-award show After Party (and then a 2nd After Party at a local bar!).

P&G's Beauty category (they separate their products into several buckets, and Beauty Care is one of them) is comprised of high fashion, take-charge, 'we're Serious About Beauty" people. They are fun, but intense. (I kind of like this crowd!) They spend hours and hours each day, each week, each year, developing products and branding messages for people like you and me (some of their products include Pantene, Olay, Herbal Essenses, Secret, Old Spice, Cover Girl, Max Factor, and on and on). So impressing this crowd is a very stimulating assignment. It's a great challenge for so savvy a bunch.

Last year, when the first annual Best of Beauty Awards celebration was conceived, Viva Bella Events was contracted for the job because of our "eye for beauty." It came off beautifully, and I was very pleased. I was so proud to hear from P&G's New York Ad Agencies that the party compared favorably with the best events they've seen in NYC.


The downside of such success is that the expectations were high this year. There would be no "Guess what? We're GOOD!" surprise this year. And this event had no small degree of challenges:

* in May, the date of the event changed (yep, just 3 months out), due to some important attendees that P&G wanted to accommodate.

* this change forced me to change the venue, due to scheduling conflicts. Basically, we started over. I spent weeks finding a new venue that fit our needs and high expectations!

So it's been a hairy process. But as to the actual event planning - I loved it. Our theme was Making Beauty Dreams Real. I asked P&G if I could go broader with the theme and develop a concept about "Dreams." They are always great about listening, trusting and giving me creative flexibility!

So, through many design boards, creative pitches, and countless discussions with lighting and music and set design and performers and caterers and florists, we produced this:

The Cocktail Hour's theme was "Am I Dreaming?" We wanted to create a somewhat surreal atmosphere to take our partygoers out of their normal experience and put them in a place of possibility. The lights, patterns, exotic flowers, trance music, and acrobats all contributed to a sense of moving to a different, unfamiliar place. "Am I Dreaming?" was the reaction we were hoping for.

We used funky flowers (thanks for the fabulous work of Perri from OSHi International in Nashville, TN) and eclectic furniture by CORT Rentals (Chicago). I also purchased cool furniture and accent pieces from all sorts of places, like Ikea, Chiasso, Pottery Barn and West Elm, to name a few...

The Award Show itself was "The Dream." Our 10 minute video countdown for the show featured a woman's eye that eventually fell off into sleep as the show began. The idea was that our attendees were now, indeed, dreaming, and we wanted that to be an exciting, expanding experience. We featured more amazing acrobatics, musical performances, and a guest appearance by Frederik Fekki, celebrity hair stylist. (I must do a blog post solely dedicated to the experience with him!)

The kite flyers are our new friends Lee and Debbie, the owners and creative powerhouses behind Aerial Experience Productions. They are flying indoor, windless kites! How dreamy is that? During this opening piece, a musicial ensemble performing a song called "Beauty."

During the show, the award winners were presented as those who WERE dreaming. They were 'in the dream' when they achieved their greatest accomplishments. The show was an invitation to everyone to live in a place where dreams and dreaming were part of their everyday lives. The closing performance symbolized the process of waking from a dream: The band performed a song called "When You're Falling" while trampolinists flew over the stage (in 'falling' poses) and dancers glided seamlessly across the ground below.

That's Stevie, my husband, with his little backpacker's guitar. I must say, he looked super hot up there in his all white attire crooning out his tune. Whoa! (One of the P&Gers compared him to Sting, but come on! he's better than Sting!)

I themed the After Party "Insomnia Lounge." The experience was meant to approximate being awake in the middle of the night (again, the idea is that we've just been jarred out of our dream). We had 2 Wii stations, and 2 plamas playing old Johnny Carson and The Twilight Zone. Four refrigerators, scattered across the lounge, were packed with cold drinks: Red Bull, Starbucks iced coffee, and soft drinks (and there was always the bar, of course!). On top of the refrigerators, wire baskets were filled with WONDERFUL JUNK FOOD: Pringles, Twinkies (when was the last time you had a Twinkie?), M&Ms, candy bars, trail mix, and Oreos. And, naturally, we had beds for lounging. The lighting company projected a big "Insomnia Lounge" logo while DJ Toad did his thing (He's an amazing D.J.!). We served mini-burgers, doughnuts, tiny malts, french fries and popped corn!

BOBA was a blast. The whole event. I couldn't be more proud of my team's work. And P&G was very pleased, too, which is gratifying. I received emails from Presidents and Vice Presidents like this one:
"Thank you so much for your leadership and tireless efforts to pull off a very successful celebration last Thursday. The event was a terrific success and the feedback has been very positive. You delivered in spades. We have all been inspired and had a great time."

But you know what this means: the bar is now higher for next year! And you know, I can't wait. We're absolutely up for the challenge.

I wanted to include a list of the AMAZING team of vendor partners who conspired to make this event so successful:

* My hubby, Steven Manuel, the Creative Director and Producer for the award show
* The entire Manuel Labors team including sound, video and musicians! And Barry Taylor!
*Steve Brock - Set and lighting designer. I would not have wanted to do this one without Steve.
* Aerial Experience Productions - the absolute highlight of the event. SO easy to work with - this is the vendor partner I was most pleased with from start to finish. They made it so easy on me, which is what I need when I'm trying to pull off an event like this.
* Tine Hoffman< - photographer extraordiare - the photos speak for themselves. * Jeff Thomas Catering - delicious as always!
* Oshi International - Perri truly captured the vision I had for flowers - and drove from Nashville!
* Sara Ranson- Our lead event coordinator who is a life saver and keeps me sane (and kept the production team organized throughout planning!). She worked 13 thankless hours and only had a Sprite all day (according to her sweet and protective husband who tells me these things!)
* AMO Ink - Amy designed FABULOUS event signs and stationary matching the acrylic theme I had going on!
* Camargo Rental - They had amazing (and expensive!) acrylic tables created for this event and then graciously forgave me when my team and the caterers accidentally scratched them up!
* CORT Rental - They have fabulous furniture and Alfredo, their delivery man, is the best.
* DJ Toad - always knows exactly what music to play for every event
* University of Cincinnati/College Conservatory of Music - Ray Dobson was patient and accomodating despite all the challenges of, in effect, a last-minute extravaganza.
* Rob Holland - Rob hung in there as we constantly asked for more and more discounts because of unforeseen budget cuts
* Peter Roman with Landor - a great designer who I collabrated with on the beauty image projection in the cocktail hour

I wanted to throw in a couple of before and after shots so you can see how we can transform a room: One of the perceived biggest challenges with the pre-party room was these random stairs that couldn't be removed. Where do we put them? How could we incorporate them into the overall design? Those are the questions that Steve Brock and I had to answer. The solution we found was great, in that it actually gave some dimension to the room. Kelly Pummell, a Manuel Labors regular, tirelessly applied fabric on the stairs and I added over 200 votives candles along with Perri's exotic floral arrangement. We took a perceived problem and made it a highlight of the room. This is the kind of thing you can do when you're "dreaming of beauty" like our team did that day!


amo said...

WOW. I have been dying to see the photos of this event. It looked absolutely spectacular! That opening shot is just breathtaking.

Fantastic job, Dora!

Bethany said...

Very impressive, Dora.

Anonymous said...

Amazing!!! (I got the link from Tine's site)


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