It’s nearly forty-eight hours since the US missed the April 15 deadline to confirm its participation at Expo 2010, and – as of five minutes ago – I can’t find a single news outlet that’s covering the story. No doubt, the deadline was a soft one that the Shanghai Organizing Committee can and will extend until there’s simply no time left for the US to build upon the prime real estate reserved for it at the Expo grounds. That’s the speculation, at least. If it’s reality, then the task ahead of the authorized US pavilion team is very simple: raise enough money to convince the State Department that it can sign a participation agreement. As I explained last week in the Atlantic, those prospects are murky: not only has the US pavilion team failed to raise any significant money, it has borrowed money from Shanghai to finance its ongoing operations.
So what did the authorized US pavilion team accomplish on deadline day? It hired PR flacks Ruder-Finn to handle its global media account. Now, one might argue that – in light of its lack of corporate sponsors (two, as of today; and $1.25 million raised out of a $61 million budget, as of April 24) – the authorized team has just put the proverbial cart ahead of the horse. In fact, come to think of it, I would argue that. But there’s more to the Ruder-Finn hire than the vanity of the US authorized team. Keep in mind: Ruder-Finn was also the official PR agency for the US pavilion at the last World Expo, in Aichi, Japan. And that pavilion was largely funded by Toyota, at the behest of the Japanese government. Ruder-Finn, among its many duties in 2005, listed attracting “high-level corporate sponsors ($1MM+) including notable business, arts and cultural organizations” among its objectives for that event. So, in that sense, Ruder-Finn might be the best hope for the authorized team to explore its interest in a host country-funded US pavilion.
[Update, ten minuntes later: I’ve just been told, via email, that Dell has signed up as a US corporate sponsor for the pavilion.]