Lenfest funds $3 million ad drive for arts Lenfest funds arts ad campaign

Posted: April 09, 2002

Former cable-TV operator H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest knows the value of television advertising. Yesterday, Lenfest, now a philanthropist, gave some of that value to several of the city's most prominent arts organizations.

Lenfest announced that he would finance - with the help of cable-TV company Comcast Corp. - a three-year, $3 million advertising campaign for the Philadelphia Museum of Art and for the Regional Performing Arts Center and its eight resident companies.

Lenfest will spend about $400,000 per year for three years to buy 1,300 30-second ads on cable-TV networks. Comcast will provide two additional ads on its system for every one Lenfest buys, so the number of ads to be divided among the groups will be about 4,000 per year. The advertising campaign could start in late summer.

The goal, Lenfest said, is to "sell tickets." And, he said, he hoped other media companies would get on board.

The announcement by Lenfest comes just after the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance announced its own three-year, $3.4 million marketing campaign, called the "Campaign for Culture," aimed at getting the region's consumers more interested in the arts.

Both the cultural alliance and Lenfest said they thought the separate efforts should complement one another in increasing interest in the arts.

The goal for both is to increase attendance for a Philadanco performance, a chamber music concert, or a new art exhibition.

Arts groups are "typically unable to compete with for-profit sports or movies . . . which have many more dollars to advertise," said Cecelia Fitzgibbon, director of arts administration at Drexel University. "Anything that allows [arts groups] to get out the word is a boon."

The resident groups at the Regional Performing Arts Center that will benefit from the Lenfest campaign are the orchestra, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Ballet, Philadanco, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Philly Pops, and the American Theatre Arts for Youth.

For most of the center's resident groups, increasing attendance is crucial financially.

Lenfest, the Annenberg Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trusts jointly made a promise last fall of $13 million over five years to six resident groups - all but Philly Pops and American Theatre Arts for Youth. That money is contingent on each group's increasing either its attendance or its endowment by 5 percent each year for the last four years of the grant.

"That money is not a given. You have to earn it," Lenfest said yesterday to the arts groups. "This is a way to help you do that by helping you drive the gate receipts."

Many of the resident companies are seeing a boost in attendance from the opening of the Kimmel Center, but they are concerned that that lift might fade after the center's newness wears off.

Steven P. Haines, executive director of the Philly Pops, said his concerts were now sold out two weeks in advance. Part of that is "the Kimmel Center effect," he said. Advertising, Haines said, could help the Pops keep up those sales in future years and "raise the bar."

The Lenfest operation is nearly "turnkey" for the arts organizations, said Joseph H. Kluger, president of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Lenfest "has already put in place the concept, funded it and hired the creative team."

Many of the details of the ad campaign are still being worked out. But the initial proposal is to select cable-TV networks that skew toward adults 35 and over with an average household income of $75,000 and up. One criterion for dividing up the ads will be number of performances by a group. The orchestra, for example, will receive more ads because it has more performances than the opera.

Yesterday, most in the arts groups seemed intrigued by the gift and what it might mean for them.

"The beauty of this campaign is that it goes on for several years," said Charles Croce, the Philadelphia Museum of Art's director of marketing and public relations. "It gives organizations that normally are not able to advertise . . . the needed frequency and reach."

That Lenfest, with Comcast, gave the money for advertising is unusual, said Nancy Burd, director of the Nonprofit Finance Fund in Philadelphia and New Jersey.

"It is very hard to raise money for marketing, and it is very hard to have enough unrestricted money in your budget to dedicate to marketing," Burd said. "Yet for an organization that relies on audience, that's the most important money to spend, as any corporate person will tell you."

Contact Patricia Horn at 215-854-2560 or phorn@phillynews.com.

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