In 1974, peasants digging near the tomb of the first Emperor of China unearthed a massive army of life-sized marching clay soldiers buried for more than 2,000 years. Thousands of these Terra Cotta Warriors guarded the dead emperor making the find one of the most important archaeological discoveries in history. When the “Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor” exhibit came to the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC, Spurrier Group was hired to amp ticket sales and build awareness. Since the museum had never held a ticketed exhibit before, the pressure was on to produce a winner. Spurrier was a powerful ally of the clay army.

Who Were We Talking To (The Audience)

Our aim was to generate buzz about the exhibit among traditional and non-traditional museum attendees. The various, and sometimes unusual, media executions spoke to them throughout their day.

What Did We Want To Tell Them (The Strategy)

This one-of-a-kind exhibition featured the largest number of terra cotta figures ever to be on display in the United States. The showcasing at the National Geographic Museum was also the last exhibition before the warriors returned home to China. Thus, our strategy was to promote the fact that this was a high-demand event and encourage people to purchase tickets sooner rather than later.

How Did We Tell Them (The Creative)

Our creative partner, Smith Gifford, knew that it was important to convey the historical significance of this archaeological discovery both past and present.  The statues had been buried, untouched and undiscovered for thousands of years.  Likewise, this exhibit was likely a once in a lifetime viewing for most people in the Mid-Atlantic region.  As a result, the creative team developed concepts depicting hundreds of the terra cotta warriors emerging from the ground as if being unearthed into modern day.  Our media team then leveraged this idea to negotiate media space in underground portals such as the Metro system.

Where Did We Tell Them (The Media)

Our media campaign used a strategic mix of traditional and social media as well as key environmental tactics.  We launched with spot radio then leveraged online display using high-impact sites and demographically-targeted regional sites.  Environmental events like fantastical 3D chalk drawings outside Union Station and magnificent sidewalk stickers at nearby Metro stations helped generate additional buzz.

Was It Effective (The Results)

The goal of this project was to sell 250,000 exhibit tickets.  By the time the army of clay marched back to China, our campaign sold more than 310,000 tickets – 24% above goal.  In fact, 150,000 tickets sold before the show even opened. The terra cotta army drew 2,200 people a day versus the normal 550 visitors per day. Best of all, the financial payoff for the National Geographic Museum was an estimated $2.7 million in gross revenue.  All said and done, this was a bona fide blockbuster!