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Tourism in Totality

Tourism in Totality

As tourism marketing pros, we move heaven and earth to bring visitors to our DMO clients. There’s nothing more satisfying than the thought of thousands upon thousands of people flocking to a city or region, booking hotels and setting out, cameras in hand, to experience the sights.
Until all those people decide to arrive in ONE DAY.

That’s the forecast for two of our clients, Destination Niagara USA and Visit Rochester, NY, whose cities are on the path of totality for the historic April 8 solar eclipse.

Destination Niagara USA

Visit Rochester, NY

It turns out that some of the attractions we highlight profusely in both cities’ travel guides and video footage are also the very best spots in the whole world to see this celestial event. In January, National Geographic named Niagara Falls the most picturesque place to view the eclipse and named Rochester the city with the best museums along the path of totality. Both cities, along with Buffalo, have appeared as big red dots on every map, on every newscast, for over a year, highlighting the best places to put on those cardboard glasses and stare at the sky. 

As a result, visitors from around the world are flocking to both destinations in what appear to be record numbers, snatching up every available hotel room, Airbnb, VRBO, and friend’s extra couch to be there to witness this rare celestial phenomenon.

At first, it sounds like a great thing—a rare opportunity for organic visitation, exposing throngs of people to the sights, culture, food and people that define these destinations. Or maybe not. Instead, masses of visitors descending on a city for one day to witness less than four minutes of action in the sky creates really interesting challenges for DMOs and hospitality businesses responsible for welcoming and hosting so many people. Rochester expects 300,000 to 500,000 visitors, while Niagara Falls and Buffalo are predicting to see closer to a million (each). To put those numbers in perspective, Las Vegas’s Allegiant Stadium only fit 65,000 to watch Super Bowl 2024.

What little lodging hasn’t already been booked is priced astronomically high. Business and institutional closures are being announced by the minute, shutting tourists and locals alike out of government buildings, museums, grocery stores, shops, restaurants, and even some parks. Parking is expected to be non-existent, and traffic pros are cautioning about an immovable gridlock of vehicles all trying to reach viewing destinations and pop-up events simultaneously. Tourism and hospitality employees are making contingency plans for how they’ll get themselves to work Monday. Concerns over too many people with too few resources prompted the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to preemptively issue a state of emergency the week before the event.

But, it’s also possible that this brief, eclipse-inspired visit to Niagara Falls or Rochester will spark visitor interest in returning to catch the sights unincumbered by crowds. Some of the best parts of both destinations will still be available for enjoyment, including the Falls themselves and surrounding parks, Rochester’s artistic and architectural gems, and the friendly residents who will undoubtedly do their best to welcome and help visitors as best they can. With years to prepare, many organizations and institutions have gone all out to plan viewing parties, days-long celebrations and special treats ranging from eclipse-inspired craft beers, ice cream flavors, and creative souvenirs. The Mayor of Rochester, Malik Evans, expects the event to have an incredible economic impact on the city, with visitors bringing in between $10 and $12 million from Saturday through Monday, the day of the eclipse.

We are sending our clients in both of these spots copious amounts of energy, good vibes, and a little bit of luck as they become the front row seats to an event of a lifetime. We hope the planets align in their favor!

We’ll post an update in the days following the eclipse to report whether predictions matched realities here in Buffalo and in our client cities along the path of totality.

Harnessing the Power of AI in Your Agency Workflow

Harnessing the Power of AI in Your Agency Workflow

As a small creative agency, staying ahead of the curve and maximizing efficiency are essential for success. One powerful tool that can help achieve these goals is artificial intelligence (AI). At FourthIdea, we’re using AI to streamline our workflow and enhance our creative processes. Here’s how we do it.

1. Start Small, Think Big

While AI has tremendous potential, it’s essential to start with manageable projects and gradually expand. Begin by identifying specific tasks or processes that could benefit from automation or optimization using AI. For FourthIdea, this meant integrating AI into our creative ideation process with tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney. By starting small, we were able to gain familiarity with AI technologies and assess their impact on our workflow before scaling up.

2. Collaborate with AI

AI shouldn’t replace human creativity; instead, it should complement it. We encourage our team to view AI as a collaborative partner rather than a threat. Foster a culture that embraces experimentation and innovation, where team members are encouraged to explore new ways of working with AI tools. At FourthIdea, we’ve found that combining human creativity with AI-driven insights leads to more innovative and impactful solutions for our clients.

3. Embrace Automation

AI excels at automating repetitive tasks, freeing up valuable time for your team to focus on more high-level creative work. Identify areas of your workflow that are ripe for automation, such as data analysis, email responses, or project management. By automating these tasks, you can increase efficiency and productivity while reducing the risk of human error—allowing your team to devote more time to crafting compelling campaigns for our clients.

4. Stay Ethical and Transparent

As with any technology, it’s essential to approach AI integration ethically and responsibly. Be transparent with your clients about how AI is being used in your creative processes and ensure that it aligns with their values and objectives. It’s also important to respect artists’ rights and adhere to best practices when it comes to image and content generation. At the agency, we’re in the process of creating an AI user guide to help us navigate through the gray areas that this new era has generated. 

Yes, I did use AI to help me write this.

Why wouldn’t I? It’s no different that providing creative direction to the human members of the FourthIdea team. I created a very well-defined prompt that outlined the  structure of the post and the points I wanted to make. Ultimately, it provided me with a start, but I still had to shape it to my vision. Integrating AI into an agency’s workflow can unlock new possibilities for innovation and efficiency. By starting small, collaborating with AI, embracing automation, and maintaining ethical standards, agencies can harness the full potential of AI to drive success for agency and clients like. At FourthIdea, we’re excited about the opportunities that AI presents and are committed to exploring new ways to leverage this transformative technology in our work.

AI Apps + Usage

ChatGPT+Gemini: Research, Data-Analytics, Strategy-Planning, Emails

MidJourney: Image generation for ideation, ad comps, and storyboarding

Eleven Labs: Voiceover generation for video rough cuts

Directing from Stage to Agency

Directing from Stage to Agency

As someone who wears two hats – a creative director at an advertising agency and a director of local theater – I’ve discovered a surprising overlap between these seemingly disparate roles. In both worlds, the ability to craft a compelling narrative and bring a vision to life is paramount. As it turns out, directing a play has honed my skills as a creative director, with a focus on the power of vision statements and the art of storytelling. Here’s how…

1. Crafting a Vision Statement

In both theater and advertising, a clear vision is essential to guide the creative process. When I direct a play, I always start by crafting a vision statement that encapsulates the story I want to tell and the emotions I want to evoke. This vision statement serves as my North Star throughout rehearsals, helping me stay focused on the core message of the play from scene to scene. Similarly, as a creative director, I rely on brand position statements to align my team and clients around a shared vision for each project. Whether it’s a brand campaign or a theatrical production, a strong vision sets the stage for success.


2. Bringing Vision to Life

Once the vision statement is in place, the next step is to bring it to life on stage or screen. In directing a crucial scene from “The Lion In Winter,” I encountered a challenge that forced me to revisit my vision statement. The script direction for a particular scene wasn’t aligning with the overarching vision of the play. The vision statement reminded me that King Henry should always operate from a position of strength. With this clarity, I made a decision to deviate from the script and have the spotlights on each of the sons blackout as Henry rejected them. This simple yet powerful change transformed the scene, reinforcing the central theme of power dynamics within the play.


3. Collaboration and Communication

Directing a play requires collaboration with a diverse team of actors, designers, and technicians. Clear communication is key to ensuring that everyone is aligned within a shared vision. Similarly, as a creative director, I collaborate closely with art directors, copywriters, and clients to bring concepts to life. By honing my communication skills in the theater, I’ve learned how to effectively articulate where we are in relationship to goals and provide constructive feedback to ensure that everyone is working towards a common vision.


4. Adaptability and Problem-Solving

Theater is inherently unpredictable, and as a director, you must be prepared to adapt to unforeseen challenges. Whether it’s an actor falling ill or a last-minute set malfunction, the show must go on. This ability to think on your feet and find creative solutions to problems has proven invaluable in my role as a creative director. In the fast-paced world of advertising, unexpected hurdles are par for the course, and the ability to adapt quickly is essential to delivering successful campaigns. The key here is to be flexible. When you present option “A” but the client wants “B,” there’s usually a “C” option that satisfies everyone. Rigid thinking can derail any production.


As the Curtain Closes

Directing a play has taught me valuable lessons that have directly translated into my work as a creative director. From crafting vision statements to making creative decisions, the skills honed in the theater have helped me become a more effective leader and storyteller. Whether you’re directing a play or leading a creative team, remember the power of a clear vision and the importance of bringing that vision to life with creativity, collaboration, and adaptability.

Our Office is a Landmark

Our Office is a Landmark

FourthIdea’s headquarters are located at 535 Washington Street. But most locals know that address as the iconic Electric Tower, one of the most recognizable buildings in the Buffalo city skyline.

An Illuminated History

The Electric Tower was built during Buffalo’s heyday in 1912 as the headquarters of General Electric. It was
inspired by the Electric Tower at the 1901 Pan-American Exhibition hosted in Buffalo, an event-specific structure that served as a soaring focal point of a historic event. Nearly eight million people from around the world flocked to the five-month-long event to see spectacles of artistry and ingenuity, including fairground streets lined with electric lights. This proud demonstration solidified Buffalo’s post as pioneers of electricity as it became one of the first cities to light streets and homes with power generated by newly developed hydroelectric power plants at Niagara Falls (now one of our destination clients). It would’ve been the first time most Pan Am visitors would’ve seen electric lights, ever. The tower, along with all the 1901 World’s Fair structures except one, were torn down at the close of the event.

When the permanent Electric Tower was completed at its present day location just as automobiles appeared

on Buffalo’s streets, it was the first building in the world to use electric lights for architectural effect. The white, glazed terra cotta facade made a brilliant blank canvas for illumination that seemed to make the whole skyscraper glow at night. Nowadays, spotlights illuminating the top layers change colors throughout the year to mark special occasions, like blue and red for Independence Day or the Buffalo Bills, green for St. Paddy’s Day, and pink for breast cancer awareness.


Our Slice of the Cake

FourthIdea moved into the tower in 2021. We’re just below the layer cake part of the building on the 14th floor. The open-concept office is a circular space surrounded by soaring windows that offer a 360-degree panorama of downtown Buffalo featuring the golden dome of the M&T building below, the waters of Lake Erie, and the sprawling radial street pattern leading away from the city center with views for miles on clear days. Fun fact: while being up this high makes for fantastic views, it also means we get to experience the entire building swaying when high winds whip off the lake and send our hanging lights swinging.


Secret Stashes

Like gathering spaces in many cool old buildings, our conference room has character that new builds don’t bother with anymore, like a beautiful fireplace and mantle (no fires allowed) and turn-of-the-century wooden wainscoting that wraps around the room to give it a stately feel. There’s a hidden door in one panel that opens to reveal our well-stocked liquor cabinet, but you’ll have to come by for happy hour to see this secret feature.

‘New Years Ground Zero

This space is particularly special on New Year’s Eve. The city of Buffalo’s official celebrations fill the streets surrounding the tower with celebratory crowds, music, street vendors and parties. It’s the second oldest New Years Eve countdown event in the U.S. behind Times Square, and we are at the epicenter. Before the countdown to midnight, the illuminated orb used for the ball drop hangs right outside of our conference room windows, an up-close view only those invited to the agency’s legendary New Year’s Eve party ever get to see. When the calendar flips to the new year, fireworks exploding over the tower bathe the white walls in light of every color.

A Promising Future

This building is a historic landmark. It’s a testament to the resurgence the city has seen over the past two

decades, as forgotten historic structures become thriving hubs of activity with investment—by both locals and out-of-towners—breathing welcome new life into this rust-belt queen city of the Great Lakes. For us, this space is a physical representation of the way we tend to think about the destination clients we work with: celebrate the storied past of a place, carry forward the features that make it special, and take a 360-degree view of what opportunities lie on the horizon to make sure people far and wide can see and recognize a specific location.


Stop by our office if you’re in town! You can’t miss it.