15 Apr 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
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Attractions Management
2023 issue 4

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Leisure Management - Clara Rice


Clara Rice

It all boils down to cultural sensitivity and meeting people where they are

Adirondack Studios’ projects include Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station Photo: Meow Wolf
The Citrovia pop up art installation at Hudson Yards, New York City Photo: Westfield Properties
Sky Fly Soar America flying theatre, The Island in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Photo: The Island in Pigeon Forge
Adirondack Studios worked on the creation of the National Comedy Centre Photo: Jay Rosenblatt Photography
Adirondack Studios works to help clients bring their creative visions to life Photo: Rabben Herman Design Office
Clara Rice – creating marketing honours the collective creativity and innovation of ADKS’ dreamers, designers and doers Photo: Matt Witherspoon Photography

Adirondack Studios (ADKS) – a company that specialises in the design, fabrication and installation of entertainment, retail and cultural experiences – has employed industry veteran Clara Rice as its first director of global marketing.

Rice joins the firm at a time of rapid expansion, as ADKS broadens its reach into new geographic areas and markets.

Rice joins ADKS from JRS where she worked since 2008, most recently as director of global marketing for the studio’s new parent company RWS Global. She has served in various leadership roles for the Themed Entertainment Association since 2011, from NextGen committee chair to Eastern North America divisional board member to international board vice president and executive committee member.

“Joining Adirondack Studios is a new adventure as well as a homecoming of sorts,” said Rice. “Through our work together for the TEA, I have known ADKS president Michael Blau for over 15 years, so there’s already an established level of trust. ADKS’ theatrical roots are also familiar territory, and I love the philosophy that developing an attraction is akin to producing a show. Experiencing the industry from the fabrication side will be an exciting journey for me, and I look forward to sharing the stories of ADKS’ projects and people with a global audience.”

ADKS is currently developing a number of high-profile entertainment attractions in the Middle East, as well as a wide array of theatrical, public art, entertainment and brand experiences in North America. Recent launches include Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios; Kung Fu Panda: Land of Awesomeness at Universal Beijing; Hersheypark Dark Nights; Genting SkyWorlds; Doha Oasis; Meow Wolf: Convergence Station; and Knott’s Berry Farm’s Fiesta Village.

As she settles into her role, Rice tells Attractions Management about her plans.

What’s your brief in the new role?
My responsibility at Adirondack Studios is to create marketing that celebrates, inspires and sells – that honours the collective creativity and innovation of ADKS’ dreamers, designers and doers.

ADKS is looking to globalise at a time when environmental, financial and legislative pressures are driving reverse globalisation. How will you tackle this?
ADKS is a global company that aims to have the right teams in the right place at the right time through highly localised design, fabrication and installation staffing, such as our large-scale production facility in Dubai.

This approach reduces the carbon footprint in the transport of materials and people, and it means we can reach our EMEA clients more quickly, efficiently and sustainably than if we were solely based in the US. In addition, we offer design as a stand-alone service, in which case there’s no transport of materials whatsoever. And of course, our design, project delivery and procurement groups are always researching the most sustainable fabrication, shipping and installation tools and techniques. All of these factors prepare us for the inevitable introduction and evolution of regulations such as CBAM.

How will geopolitical instability, such as war in the Middle East and tensions in Taiwan impact your approach to a global marketing push? 
It does seem a bit inappropriate to push marketing messages about leisure and entertainment in a time of such devastating events, so we’ll continue to be sensitive to the geopolitical climate of the areas in which our clients, teams and projects are based.

In general, we’re creating experiences that won’t open for several months or even years, so the hope is that many of these conflicts will have come to a peaceful resolution by that time. Our goal – and that of our clients – is to create destinations, experiences and touchpoints that bring people together in positive ways, so that desire will be reflected in any marketing messaging we create.

It all boils down to cultural sensitivity and meeting people where they are. Because we have offices in Dubai and Shanghai, we can lean on our team members to guide us in the proper content and delivery of any marketing messaging (including whether it’s appropriate to deliver any messaging at all).

Which marketing approaches do you intend to deploy and why?
My primary approach to marketing Adirondack Studios is storytelling. When I walked through the shop with Adirondack Studios president Michael Blau a few months ago, I filled my notebook with two pages of story ideas within the first 30 minutes. If you’re creating a post to showcase a particular ADKS fabrication technique, you can also showcase the team member employing that technique and the joy they feel in their work. That one piece of content celebrates the team member, inspires others to apply for a similar role and sells ADKS’ innovativeness to a potential client.

As far as the ‘how,’ I’m a big believer in relationship building, omni-channel marketing and repurposing. I will be carrying out a ‘listening tour’ to find out what kind of content people want, what channels they absorb content on and the frequency with which they expect content. In collaboration with our business development and HR groups, I’ll develop a fully-informed growth marketing strategy and deployment.

Repurposing is a fantastic way to get optimal impact out of a single piece of content. Let’s say Michael Blau or I give a presentation at a conference. That presentation can be video recorded and put on our website or YouTube channel. It can be podcasted. It can be transcribed and turned into a blog, LinkedIn article or an Attractions Management feature.

That feature can then be shared as a social post. So now, that one piece of content has been disseminated via at least six different touchpoints, which is great if you have target audiences that digest content in different ways.

How are you personally feeling about the move?
I’m thrilled to join Adirondack Studios.

I’ve never worked in a fabrication studio before, so this new environment will provide unique opportunities for learning, problem solving and storytelling. ADKS is navigating a time of incredible growth and change right now, so I’ve come to the right place at the right time.

But what I’m most excited about is the fact that this is a brand new department, so nothing is sacred. As we move through the various approaches I have mentioned, we can do so without road maps, hang-ups, preconceived notions or “this-is-how-we’ve-always-done-its.” We also have the ability to lengthen the table and invite new perspectives to the party.

The possibilities are open, limitless and exciting. I can’t wait to see what we create together.

Originally published in Attractions Management 2023 issue 4

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