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Smithsonian Launches Ad Campaign for Revamped Website

The Smithsonian Institution is trying to revamp its stodgy image as “America’s attic” with a new ad campaign announcing its redesigned online presence.

The “Seriously Amazing” ads will pose intriguing questions answered on the institution’s newly launched website,, such as:

“What traditional holiday candy honors the dead?”

“What exactly is a ‘snarge’?”

“How far did John Wilkes Booth get on his broken leg after assassinating President Lincoln?”

“The goal is to change people’s perception and broaden their understanding of what we do and for them to see us as a modern, exciting learning organization,” said Pherabe Kolb, associate director of strategic communications for the Smithsonian.

The $1.4 million campaign, which has been in development for two years, is trying to reach the web-savvy 18- to 34-year-old audience, as well as mothers of middle schoolers and young teens. It was funded internally by the Smithsonian and with an in-kind grant from Target.

Marketing research commissioned by the institution says most people – 85 percent – are aware of the Smithsonian, and more than half had visited the museums as children. Respondents were rarely aware the Smithsonian publishes a magazine, has a TV channel or conducts extensive research.

Nearly 30 million people will visit the Smithsonian’s 19 museums this year, above of last year’s attendance, and officials emphasize that increasing the number of visitors is not the goal of the campaign. But there are millions who don’t get to see the museums’ exhibits in person. The new ads target people who can’t come to D.C. but still want to learn about the Smithsonian’s extensive resources, research and traveling exhibits.

“The Smithsonian’s mission is the increase and profusion of knowledge,” Kolb said. “We understand that there’s a great public investment in the form of federal tax dollars, and this is a way of leveraging that investment so that our knowledge is accessible to as many people as possible. “

Print ads will appear in Smithsonian magazine, Entertainment Weekly and People magazine, along with digital ads and banners at Smithsonian construction sites, including the Arts and Industries Building and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Outdoor ads will roll out in four other cities – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco – in the next several weeks.

And for your information:

. Calaveritas de azúcar are skulls made of white sugar that are part of traditional Día de los Muertos celebrations throughout Latin America.

. Snarge is the term used for the feathers and residue left after a bird collides with a plane.

. Booth traveled about 74 miles until he was cornered and shot in Bowling Green, Va.

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