When you can’t rely on celebrity star power to impress media buyers at an upfront presentation, games and live animals may be the next best thing. Both were abundant at the National Geographic Channel’s event at Metrazur inside Grand Central Terminal. Kiera Hynninen, senior vice president of marketing for the channel, and J. B. Miller of Empire Entertainment planned a fun-and-games-filled upfront for the crowd of approximately 300 media buyers. Diversions—brought in to tie in to the cable channel’s wide range of programs and specials—ranged from space rides to a baby animal zoo.
To promote the channel’s wildlife programming, All Star Animals brought a red kangaroo joey, a black leopard cub, two Syrian black bear cubs, and a green iguana. Handlers fed and cradled the animals and answered questions from guests. Team Events created a large-scale version of the Operation game with a yeti costume and called it “Yeti Operation,” a tie-in to the channel’s special Is It Real? The channel promoted its Spartacus special with Photos in a Minute’s photo booth, where guests donned gladiator, Athenian citizen, and other costumes and posed for digital snapshots printed on-site. A sculptor created small-scale versions of famous buildings and ships featured in the Superstructures series out of plaster. Also on hand was a space-themed ride, which was less popular (after a few drinks, we wouldn’t want to be jostled around while wearing virtual reality goggles either).
Even the venue itself gave guests a preview of future programming: Grand Central chief historian Dan Brucker led exclusive tours of the terminal’s underground power station, which will be featured in the channel’s Inside Grand Central special. “This was truly a unique experience for our guests,” said Hynninen. “It even caught the attention of local and national media.”
Inside the cocktail area, Empire housed flat-screen monitors from MBP Image Display inside cocktail tables made of marble that matched the marble of the terminal’s grand staircases. Fairfield Pro uplit the walls with washes of red light. Okamoto Studio created two large ice sculptures for the bars: one of a tornado and one of a volcano that emitted dry-ice steam from its mouth.
Following a quick sales pitch, guests were beckoned to the balconies, where Steve Boyd of Art for Events choreographed 36 people to unfurl yellow strips of fabric on the floor of the terminal in the shape of National Geographic’s yellow rectangular logo.