June 30, 2010

Polaroid and Lady Gaga

Well, Wednesday was a day to remember. By that I mean it's not every day you're invited to chat with the marketing director Polaroid about new cameras, see Lady Gaga, and listen to a press conference held by the CEO of Polaroid. Yep, that's what I did Wednesday, and here's how it happened.

It hit the news Tuesday morning that Lady Gaga would be appearing at MIT (specifically, the MIT Museum) with Polaroid to do a photo shoot and unveil a new line of cameras. I've done work with the MIT Museum before and know a bunch of the people who work there, so I e-mailed and asked what the scoop was. I was told that there would be a private exhibit viewing at 3PM and a press conference beforehand.

"Cool! Do you need anybody to serve food/hold doors/be a token MIT student?"
"Sorry, I just got word that it'll be invited press only."
"Shucks, well, thanks for trying."

Of course, 10 minutes later, it hits the MIT Bloggers list and there is plenty of excited chatter about whether we'll be able to get press passes. I told them what I heard from the museum and then felt obligated to e-mail the museum again and ask about the definition of "invited." That's when I was told that there had been a change, that I could get in and that I was invited to a design brainstorming session. EXCELLENT! Then, after a phone call with the museum, I was given passes to invite 12 students (myself included) to the event. DOUBLE EXCELLENT!

Bloggers, friends, and strangers were all added to the list. The twelve of us showed up at the museum Wednesday morning at 11:30 for the design brainstorming and free lunch(!). The gist of the brainstorming session was, well, the head marketer said "I have concept drawings and renders of two potential new cameras for Polaroid and I'd like your input on them."

We were shown the two cameras (which I'm probably not allowed to share a lot about, but I will use their code names), "The Tank" and "Bellows." Both were definitely influenced by Gaga, and we weighed in on the pros and cons of each. The con was pretty heavy, that there simply isn't a need for physical pictures anymore. Polaroid kept talking about how pictures are "stuck in the computer," and while that may have been true several years ago, pictures have found a very happy home in computers, especially on the Internet. We asked him "What can I do with a physical picture that I can't do with a digital picture? Why should I buy this camera?" His answer? "An instant picture makes the experience more emotional and instant." Eh, good luck with that approach. There were some good ideas, specifically the idea of sticky backed instant pictures ("Look at that silly thing, I will take a picture of it, scribble something witty on my instant photo, and stick it to that silly thing") and potentially pictures with geotagged barcodes on them, but other than that, why do physical pictures exist?

After the meeting we were given WAY too much pizza and then were told to get out of the museum for 2 hours. Apparently the entire place got locked down for the arrival of Lady Gaga and nobody was allowed to be inside. Where the actual photo shoot was going to take place was a secret, but we found a bunch of people who had heard little bits of info from different sources and pieced together that Lady Gaga would be doing her photo shoot on the third floor of the building we were currently in. A few of our number knew their way around the building so we started our way towards an elevator to get up to where the shoot was going to be (a plan doomed to failure). We made sure to bring pizza and salad as an excuse for a visit (Gaga needs to eat, right?)

We made it to the elevator and were promptly stopped by a police officer and a museum employee. Ooooh boy, that was quick. "Where are you guys headed?"

"Oh, you know, just, wandering."
"Ok, well you can't be here, you need to leave."
"Ok, not so much wandering, as looking. You know, just wandering, looking, stuff like that."
"I'm sorry, you can't be here, you really need to leave."

*ok, how long can we stall until Gaga needs to use this elevator?*

"Well, um, we can't leave, because all the doors are locked and we can't get out."
"Really? Hm, well, hold on." The lady scampers off and finds somebody else.
"Alright, you can leave by going out this way."
"No, we tried that."
"It works now."
"But we can't, you know, wander and look for people if we leave."
"You need to leave."
"Come on."

And, before you know it, we were on the street with the commoners. A small crowd had gathered to wait for Lady Gaga to appear. The waiting wasn't too bad, we chatted with Dave Barber (you either know who he is or you don't), some other Gaga fans, and then eventually, two black SUVs rolled up and, wouldn't you know it, Lady Gaga was looking out the window of one of them. Just checking things out, looking around. People freaked. Then, 3 seconds later, cars were parked, Gaga was in the building, and that was that. 3 seconds. Unbelievable.

What were we going to do for 2 hours? We weren't allowed back in until the press conference and none of us had anywhere else to go, so we just stood there, walked around a bit, and stood there. Seriously. For 2 hours.

At 2:30 things started to get crazy again. Press had showed up for the press conference and were lined up by the front door. Fans, without press badges, were lined up where Lady Gaga's cars were parked. Where would she show? It was a decision that, unfortunately, I didn't make well. I chose to go inside with the press in hopes of seeing her, but that was right as Lady Gaga left out the back, completely ignoring the press, left out the back, stopping and signing autographs and shaking hands with all of the fans.

Oops! Oh well, life is full of choices, sometimes you get lucky and other times you don't.

The press conference was meh. The CEO of Polaroid was there, that was neat, and so was another head honcho, and they did reveal the photo of Gaga they took during the photo shoot, but most of the reporters were miffed that Gaga never showed up for the press conference. I was a bit miffed as well.

The impression I was left with is that Polaroid appears to be using Lady Gaga to bring in the cameras, then hiding her and announcing new and exciting products that, in the long run, will probably not save the twice-bankrupt company.

Harsh, I know, but we'll let Polaroid try to prove me wrong.


Wilson Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wilson Lee said...

Please do update, Snively. Reading your posts gives me energy. : )

nadia said...

Same here. It makes me more eager to apply for MIT