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What Works Studio

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Client revenue increased 51% as a result of partnering with us on Light City
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3 Festival Productions So Far
2900000000
Over 2.9 Billion Media Impressions
111600000
$111.6 Million Dollars in Economic Impact for the State of Maryland
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1,282,500 Estimated Number Of Festival Attendees Over Three Years

Creating a platform

We conceptualized, spearheaded, and helped launch America’s first international light festival. The Light City festival was a self-initiated project developed by Brooke Hall and Justin Allen of What Works Studio.

 

We were interested in creating a catalyst that would help Baltimore unlock untapped potential and become more prosperous. We were inspired to dream, design and build a festival that would capture the attention of the world.

Rave Reviews.

"Allen and Hall deserve the Key to the City! Total heroes in Baltimore. Light City was a wonderful event with great potential for the future. Two artists brought more joy (and probably more money) into the city than the Grand Prix debacle that cost millions in upfront inve stment."

Charm City Momma, The Baltimore Sun

"I deeply appreciate and applaud the efforts of the Light City team to positively raise the profile of our city. I personally appreciate the profound commitment the two of you have made."

Jack Elsby

"It’s impossible, until it’s not. I have never seen, anywhere, a transformation of vision into reality that was such a stretch. And so fast. You two did it! And perhaps never, has our town needed what you have made real, more."

Gary Vikan, Director, The Walters Art Museum

"Just wanted to send over a lot of love and encouragement. Light City's news shone all the way to London, here in my adopted city to make me smile, and say HOORAY, FINALLY some brilliant Baltimore sunshine."

Rick Armiger

"Baltimore will forever be changed because you had vision and dedication."

Mike Galiazzo, Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland

"Genius in concept and flawless in execution."

Elizabeth J. Himelfarb Hurwitz

"You and Justin gave an extraordinary gift to our city and I was just happy to be part of the moment in time."

Sarah Hemminger, Cofounder and CEO of Thread, Inc.

"You are amazing. I am so proud of what you and Justin have done and continue to do for our great City."

Jennifer Meyer, Vice President, Global Customer Operations at ZeroFOX

"You have done important and such inspiring work. Thank you for bringing Light City to fruition!"

Dr. Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood

"Thank you and congratulations on the astonishing vision you've brought to reality."

Mary Duston Lidinsky

"Thank you for being the genesis of Light City. This event will change Baltimore forever."

Kimberly Warren and John Cammack

“The enthusiasm of Brooke Hall, founder of Light City, is infectious."

Charu Suri, Travel Pulse

“If you are from Baltimore, this next paragraph can only be about Brooke Hall and Justin Allen, founders of Light City Baltimore. What a debt we owe these two. We should parade them through town and give them the keys to this city, for they are just two regular people who have reminded us that in Baltimore this is what two people can do. This is citizenship at its finest. Two people believed in an idea that could better their city. They badgered everyone they could to make it happen. They are Baltimore’s best.”

Jen Ronald, The Baltimore Sun

"Light City U’s Creative Innovation Conference [which was developed, programmed and hosted by Brooke Hall and Justin Allen was] one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended (and I’ve attended a LOT of conferences).”

M. Kendall Ludwig

"I appreciated their vision, their passion, and the overall concept of bringing the community together.”

Calvin G. Butler Jr., CEO of BGE

"You’re talking about two people who had an idea before its time."

John Cammack, Managing Partner of Cammack Associates LLC

"Both Mr. Trash Wheel and Light City are two of the greatest stories to come out of Baltimore in recent years and neither would have been possible without What Works."

Adam Lindquist, Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore

"What Works Studio leverages the passion for community that is so prolific in Baltimore City, demonstrating that extraordinary change and growth often start with the dedication of just a few committed individuals."

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Former Mayor of Baltimore City

Designing a transformative event.

The initiative was designed to have a substantial annual economic impact and an overall positive effect by introducing the world to the breadth of remarkable individuals and organizations working to help the city reach its full potential.

 

In 2013, we launched a new venture, Light City LLC, implemented a multi-year campaign to build grassroots support, raised money, and hired the world-renowned Vivid light festival director, Ignatius Jones. In late 2014, we partnered with Baltimore City. After the successful production of Year 1 in 2016, we sold the Light City intellectual property to the city and exited the venture. Baltimore City’s event agency saw their revenue increase by 51% as a result of partnering with us on Light City. According to the Baltimore Business Journal’s Book of Lists, their budget grew from $7.2 Million in 2014 to $10.9 Million in 2017. Because of Light City, Baltimore City’s event agency received the single largest financial contribution in its history. A top official at the agency noted that “Our reach now, especially with Light City, is becoming more national. We’re getting even more international artists and I hear that in the international light artist world, people are talking about Baltimore.”

The challenge we wanted to tackle.

Baltimore is known more for its challenges rather than its potential. While the city faces significant obstacles, it also has developed remarkable momentum moving towards a brighter future. In order to attract new residents, businesses, and other resources critical to the future success of the city, it’s necessary to expand the prevailing narrative of Baltimore to include more of the positive things happening here.

It all came together on a road trip.

The Light City concept was developed and honed by Brooke and Justin over several years after experiencing first-hand the transformative power of remarkable events. While brainstorming during a road trip in August of 2013, multiple back burner ideas came together with inspiration from international light festivals to form the foundation for what would become Light City. Before arriving at our destination, the festival was named, the vision was clear, website domains were purchased, and preliminary messaging work was underway.

Building a compelling framework.

The original Light City concept had three main components: Light, Music and Innovation. Light art draws large crowds together to have an unforgettable shared experience. Music because no celebration is complete without it. The innovation conferences were designed to attract thought leaders, entrepreneurs and business travelers from around the world to create meaningful connections within the city.

Getting the buy-in.

The first critical component to moving Light City forward was to carefully craft value propositions and presentations for every stakeholder that we approached for support. We assembled a team of advisors who provided access to influential networks and feedback on messaging. We refined our pitch over time and presented our idea to anyone who would listen in board rooms, backyards, and radio stations. The initial messaging for Light City won us early earned media, grants, and an innovation award as well as buy-in from all necessary players.

Research, Planning and Fundraising

In collaboration with Lindsey Davis, we performed market research and developed a plan, festival model and budget with a clear path for ROI. After a successful round of fundraising and receiving an innovation award, we hired a world-renowned light festival consultant, Ignatius Jones, to assist us. Together we developed a feasibility study, excited the public as to the potential of the festival, and pitched potential partners, including BGE who eventually agreed to become the lead sponsor, thus inspiring many others in the corporate community to purchase sponsorships.

Building a movement.

We facilitated over 65 meetings with city leaders, potential sponsors and artists. Phase I of the Light City initiative culminated with a VIP reception at the Four Seasons in March 2014 to energize city stakeholders and develop momentum to help secure sponsorships. See the photos from the first Light City party.

Convening the team.

We enrolled lead sponsors, steering committee members, including the co-chairs, the city’s events agency, fundraisers, conference logistics team, artists and other key partners and brought them to the table together. We crafted the early promotional materials, sponsorship proposals, presentations, videos, and website to help recruit additional volunteers to the team and secure funding.

Building the festival.

What Works Studio developed the brand, logo, style guide and various marketing assets for Light City. We developed the first two Light City websites and designed the Light City mobile app. We developed and managed the Light City social media accounts. We pitched new potentials sponsors, presented at community sessions and Board meetings, were responsible for many aspects of sponsorship fulfillment and were responsible for identifying, vetting and managing the conference logistics team. We performed many media interviews and acted as spokespeople for the festival and the conferences.

Producing the conferences.

In 2016, we designed, produced, and marketed four innovation conferences, which featured over 140 thought leaders and explored innovations in four key areas: Social Innovation, Sustainability, Health and Creative Industries.

 

We secured national thought-leaders to speak at the conferences such as Steve Case, Ray Lewis, Debbie Millman, Amy Webb, Jad Abumrad, Thomas Dolby, Robert Egger, Aaron Hurst, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, Richelle Parham, Reshma Saujani, and many more.

 

For the conferences, we developed the marketing strategy and implemented a social media advertising campaign to market four distinct two-day conferences to audiences throughout the East Coast. We also developed and enacted a successful direct sales plan for bulk ticket sales. Our marketing efforts resulted in six days of sold-out conferences that produced significant revenue for the 2016 festival overall.

 

See photos from the 2016 Light City conferences.

Transforming the city with light.

In 2016, the free, week-long annual festival consisted of 29 large-scale light installations, over 100 music concerts and performances, and six days of innovation conferences. The festival succeeded in becoming a city-wide collaboration and a significant tool for economic development, civic engagement and tourism. Light City has become Baltimore biggest, most impactful annual festival in the city’s history. The first year brought over 400,000 attendees, earned 227.6 million media impressions, and had an overall economic impact of $33.8 Million for the state of Maryland (a ROI of 956%).

 

In 2017, Light City was expanded to nine nights and eight neighborhoods and drew an estimated 470,000 people. The second year of the festival earned 1.09 Billion media impressions, and had an overall economic impact of $44.3 Million for the state of Maryland (a ROI of 1,097%).

 

In 2018, Light City expanded to 3 weekends and fourteen neighborhoods. Year three saw 442,500 attendees, 1.6 Billion media impressions and $33.5 Million in economic impact.

 

See lightcity.org for more.

The results.

With the help of a team that grew to an estimated 500 people that included the city’s events office, corporate sponsors, institutions, artists, entertainers, and individual volunteers, the Light City concept came to life in 2016. In its first year, the festival attracted over 400,000 visitors to Baltimore and created $33.8 million of economic impact for the local economy. In its second year, the festival generated an estimated $44.3 million in economic impact and reached over a billion people globally through various media channels.

“It’s hard to measure how you uplift a community, but I think we were able to do that,” Light City co-founder, Brooke Hall. “Light City is my baby…” Hall said. “I’m excited to see it grow.” The Baltimore Sun, May 18 2016