The Communications & Public Relations Department


Counter Information Display

While the Press Building was the steel and mortar symbol of the Fair Corporation's efforts at publicity, the story of the Communications & Public Relations Department must be told to give a complete picture of the monumental effort that was staged to tell the world about the Fair. Their accomplishments were arguably the best any Fair since has achieved. Here in a time-line, excerpted from the Fair's Progress Reports, is how they did it.


Progress Report 4
January 17, 1962

All possible help is given to press, radio and television covering events on the grounds in Flushing Meadow Park. The Department plans cooperatively for special projects with other Fair departments, or representatives of government, industry or civic groups; supplies pictures and other materials to writers, broadcasters, book publishers, and for tie-in advertising and promotion; arranges displays; provides speakers; handles distribution of the Progress Film; and is developing a New York World's Fair 1964-1965 exhibit at the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle next year.

New York World's Fair exhibit at Century 21
Artist's rendering of exhibit at Century21 Exposition 

Press copy is distributed not only to every newspaper in the metropolitan area but to leading papers in every State; to local, Federal and New York City officials; to all members of the State legislature and the Governor's office; to all prominent columnists, commentators and magazines; to all the leading advertising and public relations agencies throughout the country; to all representatives of the foreign press and to the New York correspondents of all leading United States publications.

Information on the Fair is disseminated through out the United States Information Agency. The Fair is cooperating with the Government's "Travel U.S.A." program to increase foreign tourism in this country. In the latter connection, the Fair supplied a portable display for a Greyhound Bus "Travel U.S.A." tour of Europe. In prospect for the near future are a number of such displays for widespread use in banks, stores and travel agencies.

Progress Report 5
May 17, 1962

An experiment was conducted in the grass roots press when a picture depicting two youngsters beside the Unisphere model captioned, "A Boy's Eye View of the N. Y. World's Fair," was syndicated nationally. To date, more than 150 papers in five languages have published the picture, thirty-four placing it on the front page. Since the mat is "for anytime use," it is expected that it will be used more than 250 times this year.

Full page ads are being placed in important European publications in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, The Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and in the international editions of the Journal of Commerce as prepared by J. Walter Thompson.

The second progress film, narrated by Bob Considine, will soon be released to television theaters, clubs and service groups throughout the world. The first film was seen by more than eight million people. The new production will probably have double the audience. The United States Information Agency and the Armed Services news agencies will cooperate in world-wide distribution of the prints. Foreign language editions will spread the Fair story.

Movie Production
 Filming the Fair's second promotional film

Progress Report 6
September 12, 1962

A groundswell of enthusiasm for the Fair's promotional potential is spreading though out the communications industry. The policy of presenting the story of the Fair to leaders in many fields through its movies, its exhibit designs and models, and day-to-day construction progress is producing not only world-wide press and broadcast coverage but also detailed plans for network television spectaculars, supplements in major metropolitan newspapers, full-length motion pictures, commemorative stamps -- both here and overseas -- all the ingredients that will make the World's Fair "the biggest box office in history."

Mr. Berns and the public relations consultants addressed forty delegates from among present exhibitors. They were given a detailed report on Fair plans and agreed to place their own substantial public relations organizations behind the total promotional effort.

Portion of an Advertisement appearing in Business and Trade Publications.
Ad mockup showing exhibitors

Our program of international advertising, designed to attract additional exhibitors, has been underway in western Europe for the past several months. Advertisements have been run in periodicals in France, England and West Germany. These have proved so successful in building enthusiasm and support, the the campaign has been extended to the principal countries of South America.

William J. Humphreys, shown with the World's Fair poster in front of the Eiffel Tower, works through the Thomas J. Deegan Company as European representative for the Fair.
Humphreys, European Rep for the Fair 

Discussions were held and plans were outlined for making the World's Fair the focal point of the 1963 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Exhibitors will be asked to become major participants in this parade, which is seen annually by a national television audience of sixty million.

Fair News, a new publication of this department, printed in English, Spanish and French, is now distributed on a monthly basis to exhibitors, Federal officials, foreign governments and the press -- a monthly circulation of fifteen thousand.

Progress Report 7
January 24, 1963

The work of helping to put the world in the Fair is now being directed toward bringing the world to the Fair ... The job of telling the whole story through feature material and the reporting and detailing of day-to-day news is now in high gear. The department is preparing to be host to the media of the world at its new official headquarters in the World's Fair News Center.

Counter Display
Counter Display 

Included among the many periodicals and newspaper-distributed magazines whose editorial executives have visited the Fair are: The Saturday Evening Post, New Yorker Magazine, Town & Country, This Week Magazine, Esquire, Time, Life, McCall's, The New York Times Sunday Magazine and the Sunday New York Herald Tribune -- representing a total circulation of over 50,000,000 families.

Information brochures, posters, three-dimensional displays, window and counter cards, slide packages, speakers kits, a graphic standards book and radio and TV promotion kits have been prepared and distributed by the Communications and Public Relations Department and its consultants to the exhibitor's representatives, the travel industry and to all the varied groups most concerned with the public at large.

The goal, as in every Fair program, is the most effective coordination of talent and resources to carry the Fair's message across countries and continents.

Fair exhibit in Empire State Building
One of 7 miniature models 

Progress Report 8
April 22, 1963

Advertisements appear in major publications.
Gas Companies Ad 
Chase Manhattan Bank Ad 

Denny Griswold, editor and publisher of [Public Relations News], and a director of the Fair, said, "With opening day of the New York World's Fair set for April 22, 1964, Vice President William Berns is one of the busiest public relations executives in the nation. Between now and then, he and his staff face a back-breaking schedule. In addition to handling separate dedication ceremonies for each of scores of buildings to be erected, the calendar lists, among others, the following events:

"...in April the steel supports for the Unisphere will be lowered into place ... In May, the Queens Botanical Gardens (to be part of the Fair) will be dedicated ... 'Around the World in 80 Days,' a World's Fair extravaganza, will debut in June at the Jones Beach Marine Theater ... In July, Time and Life will stage a preview exhibit ... In August, department stores in 23 cities will conduct a tie-in promotion ... In September, schools and colleges throughout the nation will salute the Fair ... In October, a helicopter carrying distinguished visitors will arrive for the opening of the Fair's Terrace Club ...Macy's will theme its Thanksgiving Day Parade on the Fair ... Use of World's Fair tickets as Christmas gifts will be promoted throughout the month of December ... In January, TV networks and national magazine audiences will be major targets ... In February there will be saturation publicity about how to get to the Fair ... March will see an intensification of media coverage and of the advance tickets sales campaign."

Life, March 8, 1963
Life Magazine spread

One of the many promotional materials under development by the Fair is the kiosk pictured above. Orders are being taken now for the kiosks, which have been designed for the sale of tickets and distribution of Fair folders and brochures and will be installed in department stores throughout the country.

-Fair News, Vol. 2, No. 7
-July 22, 1963
Ticket/Information Booth Kiosk

Interim Report
October 13, 1964

The activities of this department with the aid of its consulting firms will be directed toward the press and public during the interim period and into the 1965 season. Some highlights of the program, as it is now developing are:

Fair Film -- The Fair Corporation has retained Francis Thompson to produce a half-hour motion picture of the Fair. this will be Mr. Thompson's first production since his highly acclaimed Johnson's Wax film, and will be seen by approximately 25 to 30 million people during the coming year, through television, theaters and private club groups.

Advertising -- J. Walter Thompson is preparing recommendations for advertising by the Fair during the interim period and on into the second year of the Fair. Plans call for advertising concentration in the Metropolitan area.

Radio and Television -- Another Opening Day Program is in the discussion with NBC, which was responsible for the first Opening Day Program, seen by a world-wide audience of 500 million.

Promotional Materials -- New posters (2), new promotional folders, and displays are being designed for distribution to travel agents, department stores, supermarkets, and other outlets.

New posters for the 1965 Season
 New posters for '65

In general, this Department continues to work closely with other Fair Departments and all exhibitors in order to assure the expected higher attendance for the 1965 season.


What went wrong?

 William Berns

William Berns, vice president, Communications and Public Relations, makes first call on a bank of touch-tone telephones just installed in the Fair's ultra-modern Press Building.

-Fair News, Vol. 3, No. 1
-January 22, 1964

Despite the all-out campaign to sell the Fair to the world, attendance at the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair fell nearly 20 million visits short of estimates. "Come Back to the Fair," the 1965 advertising theme expressed in the posters shown above, was nearly a plea -- one that fell on deaf ears as attendance for the second season was even less than that of the first!

Throughout its run the Fair faced a constant barrage of bad publicity. Attacks ranged from charges of "crass commercialism," lack of Fine Art, uninspired exhibits and theme, hodge-podge architecture, lack of minorities in employ of the Fair, outrageous prices charged to exhibitors, among many, many others. And once the Fair became financially troubled during the 1965 season the press attacks became even more severe. In light of all the Fair did to court the Press, perhaps the old saying "that's gratitude for you" is in order.

Yet it can be argued that one of the reasons the Fair remains an icon today is because of the efforts of William Berns and the Communications and Public Relations Department Staff. Anyone old enough to be told that New York was holding a World's Fair in 1964/1965, no doubt, remembers today.

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