How NOT to do branded culture

I just got this email:


My name is Sarah Conn from Sinuate Media. You may remember Dentyne® as the gum brand behind the popular Make Face Time™ campaign. I am representing Dentyne® and their partner, Manhattan Theatre Club, one of the country’s leading not-for-profit professional theatre companies.

Recently, both partners announced the launch of two playwriting opportunities about personal relationships in the digital age as part of their ongoing Make Face Time™ campaign, both dubbed Dentyne® “Realationships” Playwright Contest – one is a national contest open to the general public and the other is a contest open to students at participating colleges and universities. However with a submission deadline quickly approaching on March 9th we’re focusing on promoting the national public contest.

With the national contest open to the general public, aspiring amateur playwrights can submit their entries for a chance to win a trip to New York City and have their original, short two-person play performed by professional actors at one of MTC’s theatres at New York City Center before a live audience. Additionally, I cannot forget that the winner of the national public contest wins a $7,500 cash grand prize. Learn more by visiting:

I will be posting some more thoughts on the corporate/arts relationship and how it can be improved.  I’ve given it A LOT of thought and plus Chloe Veltman asked me to….

I think that $7500 is nothing to sneeze at, but this sort of gimmick-y one-off “amateur talent contest” promotion  is just the sort of stunt that unimaginative mid-level corporate marketing managers come up with when they try and “think outside the box.” It is embarrassing to everyone – the people who thought it up, Dentyne and MTC.  This kind of gimmick has no sustainability and even less artistic value. It provides little to no ROI for the corporate client (do they really think this will increase brand mindshare, consumer loyalty and/or move product?)  and no long-term benefit for MTC – its not like this is going to fund an ongoing play development program or bring to light any unheralded talent from the hinterlands.  Its a gimmick that will maybe provide some small blip of notoriety for a half a news cycle and then will fade into the dusty bin of poorly conceived promotions.

Seriously people – the agency that came up with this idea should go back to doing direct mail coupon campaigns for Hamburger Helper and MTC should put more effort into finding science and technology based brands to broaden their partnership with the Sloan Foundation. They should expand that program beyond playwrights and open it up to devised theater companies, solo shows and one-off projects. The nature of scientific investigation is not that different from artistic experimentation – the flaw is thinking that narrative-based, 4th-wall, “modern drama” plays will do anything to actually promote an awareness of science.  Did the horrifyingly bad film “A Beautiful Mind” actually help anybody appreciate mathematics? Don’t think so.

Hey Lynn & Barry – first one’s on the house.  If you want to actually do something really interesting and successful with tangible ROI to the corporate client and long-term benefits to MTC,  gimme a call and I’ll be happy to consult.

2 thoughts on “How NOT to do branded culture”

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