R CK A profile of
Roberto Medina, the mastermind behind rock in rio
Table of Contents
C H A P T E R I • B rea k i n g the m o l d C H A P T E R I I • S ah - w o o d - d ee ! C H A P T E R I I I • S i n atra’ s Ni g ht at P e l é ’ s T e m p l e C H A P T E R I V • T h u s , R o c k i n R i o was b o r n C H A P T E R V • C reati n g g o o d vibes C H A P T E R V I • Octo ber 1 9 8 4 C H A P T E R V I I • R espect f o r the a u d ie n ce C H A P T E R V I I I • N o o n o n the d o t C H A P T E R I X • B ei n g a n d d o i n g C H A P T E R X • T he spacecra f t C H A P T E R X I • T e n y ears i n to a n e w m i l l e n n i u m C H A P T E R X i I • A l o u d si l e n ce C H A P T E R X ii I • S y m ph o n y f o r the n e w m i l l e n n i u m C H A P T E R X i V • T he c o n q u est o f E u r o pe C H A P T E R X V • H ere to stay C H A P T E R X V i • To m o rr o w be g a n y ester d ay C H A P T E R X V I i • T he l e g ac y CHAPTER XVIIi • ROCK IN RIO • USA
Author: Evandro Barreto • Translation: Alex Ladd • Edited by: Jeff Vari
Las Vegas, May 15, 2015 In precisely one minute, the doors to Rock in Rio — USA will be flung open. The thousands of people who’ve been patiently waiting on line for this moment are happy and eager to be a part of the largest music and entertainment event of all time. Standing next to the legions of girls and boys are Jim and Kate Grant. They’re holding the hands of their grandchildren, Bill and Jenny, children of the 21st Century, who’ve never seen anything like this and will remember this day for the rest of their lives. Rock in Rio is coming to the United States after thirteen wildly successful festivals in Brazil and Europe. Over a span of three decades, the festival has boasted 1,120 of rock’s greatest acts, representing the most varied musical trends from around the world. Over seven million attendees of all ages have sung, danced and cheered in front of its stages. If you add to that the total number of people in the world who’ve accessed the festival via TV, radio and the Internet, the number comes to a mind-boggling 1 billion human beings. All that was left was to win the hearts and minds of Americans, live. Now, that’s no longer the case. Standing on line — while always keeping an eye on his grandchildren — Jim Grant became lost in his thoughts for a moment. The flashbacks came in bursts. In the ‘80s he’d been a music critic in L.A., and he had traveled to Brazil to learn more about an event in the works that was causing some buzz. It seemed like a hopeless dream. Rock? In Rio? How could the festival’s producer, a South American businessman, dare to think he could attract some of the biggest names in show business to perform together in a Third World city, in the tropics, at the height of summer, where temperatures regularly topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit? Still, the project, which hoped to attract stars as varied as Freddie Mercury, George Benson, Rod Stewart and James Taylor, because of its sheer audacity, deserved a closer look. Roberto Medina, the Rock in Rio mastermind, welcomed Jim at his headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, where large windows opened out onto a postcard view of the city. When Jim learned that, with one year to go, almost everything surrounding the festival was still up in the air: the preparation of the site, which would boast a stage larger than that of the Metropolitan Opera; the lineup of artists; the funding — he concluded: “The man’s crazy.” On the bookshelf behind Medina, he noticed a statue of Don Quixote. That reminded him of the other Quixote statue he’d just seen, the much larger one in the lobby. That brought to mind the song “The Impossible Dream” from the 3
Broadway musical and he thought: “What’s worse, he knows he’s crazy.” As the interview progressed, Jim’s impressions of Medina began to change. The man was the president of an advertising and marketing agency that had scored much international success, including the World Ballooning Festival, a performance by the Cypress Gardens aquatic ballet before an audience of 400,000 people on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro and TV commercials shot abroad with such top-shelf stars such as David Niven and Frank Sinatra. And then there was his greatest achievement to date: He had brought Sinatra to Brazil to perform at the world’s largest stadium, before 100,000 adoring fans. The words uttered by The Voice to the audience that night, upon seeing the multitude that came out in spite of torrential rains that had been pouring down until only minutes before, and ceased as if by a miracle, summed up the essence of that night: “Never in my life, never in my career, have I experienced a moment like this!” Jim Grant decided not to write his article just then and rather, simply let the events unfold. On January 11, 1985, promptly at noon, when the gates to the monumental The City of Rock finally opened, he was there, back in Rio, rooting for the festival to succeed. Over the next ten days and nights, he soaked in all of the sounds and images from that indescribable party. It was the starting point of a great success story, which now in the Nevada desert had reached its high point, thousands of miles away from where it all began. “Jim, hurry up, the kids are waiting!” Kate shouted, ending his nostalgia trip. What he most remembered was what Roberto Medina said as he was leaving at the end of their interview: “Remember, Disney started with a mouse.”
Breaking the mold
What happens to an ad’s message after the newspaper is thrown away, the TV is turned off and the car has driven past the billboard on the road? This is the question Roberto Medina asked himself upon assuming the helm of the Artplan Publicidade ad agency at a mere twenty-three years of age. Although young, he already knew plenty about marketing and organizing major events from the experience he’d gained working with his father, Abraham Medina, one of Brazil’s most respected businessmen. The Abraham chain of stores in Rio de Janeiro was the market-leader in home appliances. That was not all, the father’s ad campaigns and the events he personally organized were known for making a splash. Here was a Jew who would pay for Christmas decorations on Rio’s busiest streets out of his own pocket. And he could make Santa descend from a helicopter in a stadium packed with children. Roberto was a fast learner. He felt there were too many ads competing for the attention of a fixed number of people, and only those ads that really stood out would remain in consumers’ minds. What was needed was a concept to break the mold of conventional advertising. At a time when high-end real estate properties still only advertised in newspapers with bland promotions, Roberto Medina convinced his largest client to shoot a television ad featuring a couple in an open-air living room, built on a floating platform in Rio’s famous lagoon, right in front of the construction site where the residence was going up. At the opening event for the Johannes Brahms Building, he put the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra atop the giant boulders of Ipanema Beach performing the German composer’s Concerto No. 2. And he never stopped creating messages and campaigns that made an impact and generated sales which exceeded expectations and shook the advertising world. Of particular note was the campaign he orchestrated at the opening of the first Brazilian shopping center built to international standards. The impact was so great that it is credited with changing the shopping and leisure habits of Brazilians. A film crew assembled especially for the project, led by a renowned filmmaker, toured major cities in the United States, Europe and Asia, filming the most important shopping centers on each continent, interviewing entrepreneurs, administrators and tenants, chatting with consumers about the advantages of shopping complexes compared to street retail. They also interviewed city officials and urban planners in each city who spoke of the advantages of shopping malls with regard to safety, comfort, traffic and parking. The result was a 50-minute documentary, aired to tens of millions on Brazil’s largest television network, ensuring full occupancy in the project even before ground was broken and preparing the people for a revolutionary new dynamic in the retail world. Not surprisingly, the title of the documentary was The Consumer Revolution.
Artplan became one of the most acclaimed agencies in the country and Roberto Medina was named “Ad Man of the Year.” Since success breeds success, Roberto soon landed his first multinational client. Seagram, maker of world-famous whiskeys such as Royal Salute and Chivas Regal, was entering Brazil in a big way and had plans to bottle some of its brands in the country. The company knew from the outset that their legitimate Malt Scotch products would need to avoid being confused with local brands, which were looked down upon by sophisticated drinkers. They handed the Passport Scotch Whisky account to Artplan with a challenge:
“Conquer the market.”
The only way to establish the brand identity and to win the public’s trust would be to show, through the vast power of television, Passport Scotch being consumed outside of Brazil by a world-renowned celebrity — preferably a Scot. The first name floated was so iconic that one immediately pictured it on a movie marquee: David Niven. The famous actor, born in Scotland, radiated British sophistication and had become a fixture among the international jet set. He’d rubbed shoulders with royalty, spent summers on the Riviera, winters in Gstaad and had a well-deserved reputation as a bon vivant. Perfect, but the only problem was that back in 1976 Brazilian advertising was still very provincial, and no Brazilian ad agency had ever tried hiring an international star. Was the risk worth taking? Yes. Roberto Medina, never one to back down from a challenge, took up the gauntlet, and the client agreed to let Medina run with the idea. The next step was contacting and actually hiring the man. An inquiry here and a phone call there, and eventually they succeeded. Roberto’s team was greeted in London by personnel from Samuelson Film Services, who specialize in giving support to foreign production companies. They put at his disposal truckloads of equipment and a high-level production team, led by Johnny Goodman, a former partner of Roger Moore and Blake Edwards. As for the location, they had their pick of at least half a dozen mansions to lease. Their choice, in Berkshire County, had an imposing name: Milton Manor. The gardens and the façade were magnificent, but the interior had suffered the ravages of time. Not a problem: within 24 hours, they’d found the perfect interior in a small nearby hotel, where a century before it had been the location for a rendezvous between a king and a Shakespearean actress. A Rolls Royce Silver Shadow was chosen to transport the actor in the first scene. They leased it from a company that boasted dozens of options, including the famous Yellow Rolls Royce from the film of the same name. It came with a singularly qualified uniformed driver — he’d been David Niven and Deborah Kerr’s driver in the comedy “Prudence and the Pill.” The idea was to infuse the 60-second ad with the feel of a 1940s feature film, using the power of advertising to speed up in the public’s mind the aging of the product’s image. In other words, they would use classic cinematographic language to establish Passport Scotch whisky right from the get-go, as a classic in the international Scotch whisky market. Through it all, David Niven was a consummate gentleman and a professional. He diligently went over every 7
word of the script in all its drafts. He immediately understood the 1940s Hollywood aura being sought. In the end, he had only one question. It was about a word — the Portuguese equivalent of “cheers,” with which he would toast Brazilians in the final scene. “How do you say ‘saúde’?” he asked. It was easier to spell it phonetically: sah- wood- dee When the spot aired, the impact and the audience reactions exceeded even the most optimistic of expectations. Not only was there an immediate jump in demand for Passport at stores throughout Brazil, making it the absolute leader in that market segment, but the spontaneous impressions of TV viewers were truly extraordinary. During the first few days of the ad’s run, friends and acquaintances began to call up not only to congratulate those who had worked on it, but to share impressions they’d had and, over time, it became apparent were widespread among viewers. Whenever the film showing on TV would go into commercial break, viewers would think the station had made a mistake, and without warning, had inserted another feature film into that time slot. It was exactly the feeling they were going for. There was more. Suddenly, they began hearing a question that took them by surprise. It was repeated with such frequency that it demonstrated that the message had hit the mark in full, integrating product, character and location, and achieving a level of verisimilitude only rarely seen in advertising: “That house. Is it his?” “We won’t have enough bottles,” Roberto thought. Although the Seagram’s factory had the capacity for mass production, the Passport bottle, due to its unique shape, was made-to-order. The success of Operation David Niven had gone beyond what anyone had dared imagine. With this first campaign, Brazilian consumers began to widen their definitions of quality and authenticity in a product. Trendy nightclubs and fine restaurants that previously had only served Scotch bottled at the country of origin surrendered to the charms of “the whisky that that English actor drinks,” as waiters would say. And there was no shortage of wealthy patrons, both from old and new money, who began ordering the unmistakable green bottle without the slightest embarrassment. Things were going as well as could be expected, but how could you top such an ad? It was obvious that testimonials by celebrities were a winning formula. But what would they do for an encore? Who on Earth could follow David Niven? Who would have the same impact while the campaign was still fresh in the public’s mind so as not to spoil the magic? The entire Artplan team began making endless lists of names. Until one day Roberto Medina, never one to think small, decided: “Frank Sinatra!”
Sinatra was a legend in Brazil. After decades of attempts, no producer had ever managed to bring The Voice to perform in the country. The task before them was even harder: to convince Sinatra to do something he’d never even done in his own country, a television commercial. And in the absurd event that he should agree, how many millions of dollars would he demand? “I want Sinatra,” Roberto insisted. His staff knew that look well — that Don-Quixote-donning-his-armor look. “God’s will is to be done”, he said. After all, going after David Niven had also been a daring kamikaze move, but it had worked. Why not take it up a notch? Who better than Frank Sinatra to be the second stage of a rocket that was now traveling at supersonic speed? “To our complete surprise, the client was not fazed,” Roberto said. “You’re still crazy,” the Seagram executive began after a long pause. “But not as crazy as you think. Sinatra is a shareholder in a California winery controlled by Seagram’s president, and he’s a personal friend of the man. Let’s give it a shot. In one week’s time we’ll know.” Long story short, Sinatra accepted. The ad would be shot at Caesar’s Palace. Medina was a bundle of nerves when he flew to Las Vegas to meet the singer. Dressed casually, Sinatra looked younger than he did on screen. He welcomed Roberto cordially, but without smiling or looking him in the eyes. It was not arrogance but rather a certain detachment. He was in the final stretches of preparing for that season’s shows in Las Vegas — all his powers were concentrated in one sense: hearing. Sinatra had a conductor’s ear and could identify a musician in the last row who was slightly off-key. The singer confirmed the shoot would take place an hour before the first of two shows that night, and he asked for a few clarifications of the script. This first contact lasted less than five minutes. He said good-bye politely and went back to his rehearsal. At six o’clock that evening, Roberto had a meeting with attorneys from Rudin, Perlstein & Filkenstein, who represented and managed Frank Sinatra. The plan for that evening was to shoot the commercial, watch the show, and then have dinner with Sinatra. Mickey Rudin, the chief lawyer, bought a round of drinks (Passport, of course!), and waited for the green light before going into the dressing room. Suddenly a man, visibly upset, came out of the dressing room. He whispered something in Rudin’s ear, and Mickey went pale. There was an interminable pause. Finally, he said very quietly: “The jet plane flying Frank’s mother is missing.” He put out his cigar and disappeared in the direction of the dressing rooms. Almost an hour later, Rudin returned and gave them the big picture: Dolly Sinatra, an old friend and the pilot had left Palm Springs that afternoon. They were to fly over the desert to Las Vegas and arrive in time for the
premiere. It was raining and windy. A few minutes after takeoff, the pilot lost contact with Palm Springs. Other airports were alerted, but were unable to establish contact. Las Vegas waited until the chances of a happy outcome fell to almost zero before releasing the news. They began the search, in spite of the bad weather, in an attempt to take advantage of whatever daylight was left. Rudin returned and did not go into details about how Sinatra had taken the news. He only said he’d rushed to the airport. The tension was palpable. Fortunately, Rudin kept his calm. “There’s nothing we can do right now. The first show’s scheduled to start in half an hour. By then we’ll know what we have to do. The best we can do now is to meet down at the restaurant in fifteen minutes for dinner. Whatever happens, we’ll need to be in good physical and mental shape.” During dinner, Roberto noticed stares from the other diners. After all, he was sitting at the “king’s table,” and next to him was an empty chair. Had the news spread about the plane? He concluded that people were simply waiting anxiously for the triumphal entrance of Sinatra. The maître d’ brought a note. Nobody moved while Rudin read it. He excused himself, called his partners over, and walked off with them. When he came back, he said: “Frank will do two shows tonight. Get ready to shoot the commercial during the break.” It seems that the show must go on was more than a mere Broadway catchphrase. This time around, Sinatra’s attention was totally focused on the camera. Everything seemed ready. Frank sat with script in hand, the bottle of Passport was open, the glass and ice bucket were on the table. Roberto didn’t know how to start. Should he tell Sinatra that he hoped everything would end well or should he just ignore the subject altogether? Sinatra decided for him. “How’s Tom Jobim?” he asked. That broke the ice. Sinatra’s friendship with “The Girl from Ipanema” composer had helped to make things a little less awkward. They shot the first take, but it wasn’t a good one. For reasons that were completely understandable, Sinatra had a lost look about him, his voice seemed distant, impersonal. His sah-wood-dee toast to the Brazilian people was downright melancholic. They would need to do another take. But ... how does anyone approach Frank Sinatra, on the same night when the plane carrying his mother had disappeared in a storm, and say: “Sorry, not good enough. Can we do it again?” Again, it was the artist himself who came to the rescue: “I think we can do better. Let’s do another take.”
Roberto Medina pushed his luck and went for a third take. In the time it took for Roberto to walk from his monitor to the bar, they’d already whisked the cameras, and Sinatra, away. While the rest of the gear was being dismantled, the message came from Sinatra inviting Roberto and his Brazilian crew to attend his second show — he had picked the table himself, one with a fine view of the stage. After the opening number, Medina was surprised by a gesture of embedded marketing, which he would never have dared asked for even in his wildest dreams. Out of nowhere, Sinatra pulled his helper out of the piano — a bottle of Passport used during the shoot and already half empty. He showed it to the audience and said enthusiastically: “Today I discovered a great new fuel — this here.” He poured a generous dose, raised his glass in a silent toast and drank with pleasure. Days later, back in L.A., Rudin gave Roberto a tape of a fabulous rendition of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” recorded live. It was used to open the ad. In spite of everything, the agency had managed to produce another striking Passport commercial. Apparently, the news about the plane had not yet spread. The audience did not suspect a thing. At the end of the night’s last show, the singer made a dedication: “This one goes out to someone I know can hear me from where she is now. I just don’t know where that is.” He began singing, “When I was seventeen ... “ He tried but could not hold back the tears. His commitments for the day over, Sinatra joined the search. When day broke, they’d found the wreckage spread along a hillside only three minutes by plane from Palm Springs. There were no survivors.
Sinatra’s Night at Pelé’s Temple
Sometimes extreme situations create strong bonds, even among people who until recently were complete strangers. The course of events on the night of the plane crash that killed Frank Sinatra’s mother brought Roberto Medina and Mickey Rudin close. Neither of them said it at the time, but both felt it was the beginning of a strong partnership. On the flight back to Brazil, Roberto had time to reflect on many things: risk, luck, will and fate. By the time he’d landed he had one more bold idea: He’d bring Sinatra to Rio, to sing before a huge crowd at the world’s largest stadium. Built to host the first World Cup held after World War II, Maracanã Stadium was a symbol of Brazil’s grand aspirations and a stage for the unforgettable performances of Pelé, the most brilliant soccer player of all time. It was a worthy stage for the most admired singer on the planet. Medina made the phone call, unsure whether they would ever go for it, but determined to fight to the end to get what he wanted. There were seemingly endless months of tense negotiations, advances and retreats, arguments and reconciliations. And when everything seemed to lead to failure, victory smiled upon them. Sinatra and his very tough negotiators agreed that he would come to Brazil. In Roberto’s mind, what lay ahead — as big as it was — went way beyond a mere event. Sinatra in Brazil was also an exceptional marketing opportunity to expand the visibility, prestige and positioning of the brands that would become associated with the project. Rio Palace Hotel, where the singer would be staying, was a client of Artplan’s. Medina seized the opportunity to market the hotel as Rio de Janeiro’s most sophisticated. Thus, he included in negotiations a couple of concerts to be held there for a very select audience. This helped extend the marketing possibilities for the short stay. It would be the appetizer for the big show, to be held Saturday, January 26, 1980, at the colossal stadium. January is typically a month of torrential rains in Rio — that year was no exception. The city was being assailed by storms on the eve of Sinatra’s only open-air performance at Maracanã Stadium. Two days before the big day, 80,000 general admission tickets had already been sold. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Weather Service was receiving numerous inquiries from all over the country about the forecast for the
night of the show. It was scheduled to take place from 9-10:15 pm. The plan was that, after the show, Sinatra would head straight for the airport because he had an engagement in L.A. the next afternoon, which could not be postponed under any circumstance. If the show at Maracanã Stadium were to be cancelled due to rain, there would be no show on Sunday, no matter what. “We were fully aware of the risk. What we could not afford was to be pessimistic,” Medina remembered. Less than 48 hours before the show, a new storm broke over Rio de Janeiro. And there was no alternative. Time was too short for any changes, and Medina steadfastly refused to consider the possibility of transferring the show to another city. This was a gift he would only give to his city. What to do? The answer: The first insurance policy against rain in Brazilian history. At stake was a US $2.5 million investment. Long and painstaking meetings with the insurer finally resulted in a 50-page contract. The contract covered not only the risk of cancellation, but also accidents caused by the sound and light equipment; death, disability or incapacity of the singer; and even the non-appearance of the singer due to kidnapping or an attempt on his life. The financial danger had been dealt with. But how about the frustration of ticketholders? The forecast for the date of the show seemed straight out of a thriller: “Overcast, with showers, scattered thunderstorms and possible periods of improvement.” Meanwhile, the crews setting up the stage picked up their pace. The confidence that everything would work out in the end was almost religious. After all, the show was the talk of the town. “To avoid hoards of fans and the press with questions we couldn’t answer anyway, the sound check was done at dawn,” Roberto remembered. When the stadium lights were turned on, Sinatra was astonished. Never had he imagined performing in a venue of such majestic proportions. It would be the culmination of a glorious career in show business! Maracanã Stadium was beautifully dressed for the evening. The colors on stage matched those of the seats. An extensive runway, only meters from the front row, was assembled surrounding the hexagonal stage. Floodlights weighing over five hundred kilos would make the star shine even brighter, six Super Trouper spotlights were deployed to illuminate the 38 musicians in the orchestra, and those sitting in the front row would also receive special lighting. And the 72 speakers, 6,000 watts each, would carry every note clearly even to audience members seated in the nose-bleed sections. Robert Kiernan, Sinatra’s engineer, declared himself delighted with the preparations. The show would be broadcast to all of South America. Globo TV had 150 employees and ten cameras on site. The 5,152 seats on the field went for US$ 60 each. Bleacher tickets sold for only US $3 each. The anticipated revenues amounted to US $650,000. Medina gave away tickets freely to his employees. Those who were married received two. Seagram and Skol Beer booked thousands of tickets for their guests. By 6:40 pm, the rain was coming down hard, but Medina still held out hope that the skies would clear by 15
nighttime. By 7 pm, few spectators had made their way to the stadium. Backstage, Frank Sinatra was resting. He was nursing a cold and feared it would develop into pneumonia. Deep down, he was starting to doubt the show would even go forward and was biding his time before returning to the airport. The pessimism was starting to become contagious. There were reports of individuals crying in the corners. “I didn’t know what to do, but I needed to do something,” Medina recalled. “I went to the press section and started talking on the air with each broadcaster covering the event. I took a deep breath and told them the show would go on. I went over to Boni, the head honcho at Globo TV, and I guaranteed him that Sinatra would perform, rain or shine. Anxious to safeguard the credibility of the station, but aware of the gravity of the situation, [Boni] agreed to pass the information along to his audience — as long as I signed a liability waiver, stating that I had been his source, which I did without the slightest hesitation. Globo announced the news and the public began to arrive in droves. It was a desperate move on my part. Sinatra knew nothing.” Then, Roberto left for the airport and told Pan Am to delay the flight, under any pretext. When he returned, the stadium was already almost full and people were still arriving. And the rain kept coming down. By this point Medina would have been content with only a few minutes of Sinatra on stage, so as to not completely disappoint the audience. Many people who had no interest in soccer whatsoever had come to Maracanã for the first time, especially women, who outnumbered men by a ratio of three to one. Roberto Medina went to Sinatra’s dressing room and convinced the singer to accompany him to the mouth of the tunnel that led out onto the field, promising him an unforgettable view. Hidden in the shadows, Sinatra looked out onto 150 thousand people, waiting anxiously for him to come out and trying to stay dry as best they could. Happy and excited, the crowd whistled “Strangers in the Night.” What Sinatra said next made headlines the following day: “Oh, my God!” He turned around and, right in the hallway, yelled that he wanted to hold an impromptu meeting with his staff in his dressing room, immediately. On the way, Medina reported that the flight had been canceled due to mechanical problems. By phone, the airline confirmed that the flight had been suspended. Sinatra grilled the technicians. He was told that the lights would not be an issue, but that the sound could only withstand the downpour for fifteen minutes. Sinatra turned to Medina and asked: “Is fifteen minutes of music enough for you?” Medina said yes on the spot. “Let’s go! I’ll sing for as long as I can!” It was five to nine. Oversized umbrellas were being brought out to protect the instruments in the orchestra, when suddenly, a miracle happened. Roberto came out yelling to everyone:
“It stopped raining! It stopped raining!” Suddenly, the moon and the stars had begun to shine in the Rio sky. Instead of raindrops, there were tears of joy. At 9 pm on the dot, the orchestra came out onto the field, illuminated by powerful floodlights, and to the deafening applause. After ten minutes of instrumental music — a medley of immortal hits — Frank Sinatra walked briskly onto the field, climbed the ramp and walked along the six runways set up around the stage to greet with kisses and bows an audience who welcomed him elatedly, and reciprocated with deafening applause, screams, whistles and fireworks. It was five minutes of absolute communion. It’s hard to start singing when your heart is pounding. He even forgot the lyrics to “Strangers in the Night,” but the audience sang it for him and to him. At one moment, in between songs, he called for a moment of silence because he had something to say to the Brazilians. His voice was filled with emotion, and he revealed a disarming sincerity: “This is the greatest moment in my entire career as a professional singer. Never have I experienced anything like this before. Never. God bless you!” The last of the 18 songs that night was “New York, New York.” When it was all over, he thanked the crowd and the magical evening came to an end with a deafening ovation. Minutes later, the storm returned and it did not let up for the next two days. In his dressing room, Sinatra cried. The show at Maracanã Stadium was the apex of his artistic life. Not only because of the entire aura surrounding the event, but the audience had been almost ten times the 18,000 spectators who had packed Madison Square Garden, his most memorable show thus far. News of the Rio de Janeiro concert reverberated throughout the world press, and it made the cover of the book of “Guinness World Records.” Never before had so many people gathered in one venue to hear one singer perform. “We gave him the most important show of his career. And it wasn’t because of me,” Roberto Medina said. “It was the Brazilian people and their fantastic power to transmit excitement and joy. Frank Sinatra had touched the whole world for generations. That night Rio de Janeiro thrilled Frank Sinatra.”
C hapter I V
Thus, Rock in Rio was born
Early morning, January 21, 1985. Just as Yes was playing the last notes of its set, the rain stopped and the moon peaked through the clouds after 10 days of intermittent showers. At the conclusion of the band’s famous laser show, a flurry of fireworks burst into the night sky illuminating The City of Rock — the 250-thousand-square-meter megasite built in less than one year to house the first Rock in Rio festival. As fans streamed out, their clothes soaking wet and their souls cleansed, one of the very few fights ever to break out in the festival ended just as quickly as it began. The crowd surrounded the two would-be gladiators and loudly voiced their disapproval. The two men walked off, one in each direction, mortified and suddenly sober. It was the best endorsement possible for a job well done — one that had started fifteen months earlier in the hopes of restoring Rio de Janeiro’s once proud reputation as a sensitive, cheerful and friendly city. In fact, with this festival, the first of its kind, the city had managed to attract young people from all over the world, and had given them ninety hours of world-class music in a climate of peace and fun. It all started when Brazil’s largest brewery, Cervejaria Brahma, entrusted Artplan with the mission of launching a new beer aimed at a young market segment. The agency was charged with everything from the name, look, promotional campaigns, product launches and major events. After extensive market surveys, the name they settled on for the beer was Malt 90. The campaign they created centered around a fictitious rock opera being produced by a group of young entrepreneurs and artists. Their story was told through a series of ads depicting the exciting, torturous and in the end, triumphant production. The slogan they chose epitomized the spirit Brahma was seeking when it conceived its newest beer. It captured the essence of a new generation: people who did everything to the fullest, be it producing a show, writing a musical score, rehearsing a new dance number or simply enjoying life — people who understood “the pleasure of doing things the right way.” The production values were of the highest standards. Choreographers and dancers were flown in from Broadway to join their Brazilian counterparts. A special musical score, arranged for an orchestra, was composed exclusively for the campaign. They recruited the best talent in all disciplines. Still, this was not enough. If the goal was to change the consumption habits of Brazilians, and to break the half-century stalemate between the country’s two leading beer brands, it would be necessary to go beyond the 18
advertising rhetoric, as brilliant as it might be. Roberto Medina recounted what happened next. “We began imagining an event capable of drawing the youth to one single place where they could express their values in a free and real way, showing the world an unforgettable example of peace, love and joy. The seed was planted for the biggest musical event of all time. To introduce itself to the youth of our beautiful planet, Malt 90 beer would sponsor a magical event, which was given the name ROCK IN RIO FESTIVAL. “By 1984, the idea was still on paper. But it hadn’t left the page. We had no budget, no venue and absolutely no contacts with the newest generation of international rock bands. The only thing we really had was experience in making dreams that seemed impossible come true.” Roberto found a deal with the real estate company Carvalho Hosken on a private plot of land on Rio’s Jacarepagua Lagoon; payment would be on a deferred basis. It would be the site for The City of Rock. The design called for a stage bigger than that of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York; two breweries; two fast food outlets; two mini-malls; a medical station; dressing rooms; offices; lounges; restaurants for personnel and talent; television headquarters; a heliport; huge bathrooms; a waste treatment station; an electrical substation; telephone and telex network; a photo lab; a post office; telephone booths; light and sound tower; over a hundred turnstiles; giant gates to allow for a quick exit in case of emergency; suites for VIP seating; press room ... phew! Where would the money come from? Forget the construction costs — how about the operating costs and the paychecks for the musical talent? Roberto Medina remembered a quote from architect Sergio Bernardes: “Money is very limiting; when you have it you’re limited by it, when you don’t the possibilities are limitless.” They embarked on an initial flurry of activity: ground was broken at the site, they closed on the first leases for shops and sales of advertising space, and they took the first steps in creating an international network of showbusiness contacts. In the eye of this storm, under the leadership of Medina, was an overworked and overstressed group of less than ten people who breathed life into the project. The crew divided tasks as well as they could to try to cover key areas. It’s beyond the scope of this book to name every important player in this initial phase, because there were so many superheroes who came and went that it would be impossible to do justice to them all. However, other than Roberto Medina of course, two exceptions must be made. Abraham Medina and Oskar Ornstein, both about 70 at the time, displayed a vitality, competence and leadership that inspired everyone. Abraham Medina was a fixture on the construction site that year with his cigarette holder and white shoes that seemed to defy rain and dust. He gave orders to engineers, construction workers, and anyone who happened to be walking by. Without him, the construction of The City of Rock would not have met its crazy deadline. Oskar Ornstein, an entertainment producer with vast experience and great cachet among artists the world over, spent 19
more time in airplanes than at home, signing deals and publicizing the event across the globe. By a conservative estimate, he flew over 300,000 kilometers. Star Wars Roberto Medina left for the United States carrying a list of the greatest names in rock n’ roll. His experiences when he knocked on doors were both tragic and comical. “I was confident. I thought I’d earned some credibility, having produced the greatest show in history with Frank Sinatra at Maracanã Stadium,” Medina said. “I took a detailed prospectus of the project with me. I had over seventy meetings in six weeks — and I got just as many Nos. They were telling us they didn’t trust Brazilians. It was hard to blame them: Almost every tour of an international pop star in Brazil had ended very badly. I went through several embarrassing moments, some even humiliating. We reached out to Bob Dylan who refused to meet with us in his dressing room. A list of woes — everything from stolen gear, to payments never made, to a general lack of organization — had placed Brazil on an international blacklist.” “I’d go in a suit and tie,” he recalled. “That’s how I dressed for the meeting with Iron Maiden’s manager. I pictured arriving at an imposing office, but the meeting was in an ordinary L.A. home. I was met by a guy seated in his underwear, eating from a plate of food, strands of noodles hanging from his scraggly beard. He never bothered to get up. We didn’t get very far. On the way out, I made up my mind. I called Oskar Ornstein and told him the guy thought we were cops. ‘Let’s buy some jeans and t-shirts,’ I said.” That failed to make a difference. It might have had something to do with the fact that the project bordered on megalomania: 250 thousand square meters of land, a giant revolving stage, a helipad, dozens of shops, a minihospital, a power substation, a communications hub, water supply and drainage, and a sewage treatment plant. In Roberto’s first meeting with Jim Beech, Queen’s manager, Beech looked at the drawings and shook his head in disbelief: “If an American were to bring this to me I’d laugh at him. You’re Brazilian.” In fact, no one had ever done anything like this before, not even in the US. The clock was ticking and nobody seemed even remotely interested in playing in Brazil. Roberto Medina was utterly frustrated. He was about to give up. An event of this size would be impossible with only local acts. Fans wouldn’t buy tickets, it would be tough to mobilize the media, attract tourists and to promote the event abroad. “I returned to Brazil and poured my heart out to my family and my team,” Medina recalled. “Their reaction was overwhelming. Nobody even contemplated surrender. The unconditional support I received touched me and brought new energy. I decided to give it one last attempt and go all out.”
Roberto returned to L.A. and sought out Mickey Rudin, Sinatra’s lawyer who had previously been his partner of numerous defeats and victories, both in Las Vegas and Brazil. Rudin didn’t hesitate. He immediately called Lee Solters, the communications adviser with whom Medina had butted heads in Rio because of Solters’ extreme rudeness. Yes, he could be a troglodyte, but he was also excellent at what he did and was very highly regarded by the American press. Solters, for his part, said there were no hard feelings, but he made only one request: “Medina, throw a cocktail party for fifty people in your hotel. Leave the rest to me.” On the date and time agreed, the trade press and major media representatives came out in force. “I was surprised,” Medina recalled. “I thought there’d be three or four reporters there, friends of Solters’, but there was a sea of people. After so many shots in the dark, I had prepared what I thought would be my last presentation. By then I’d almost lost hope. The next day, the headlines from coast to coast read: ‘Greatest show on Earth will happen in Brazil’.” The phones did not stop ringing. Powerful businessmen were calling demanding urgent meetings, Medina could choose the place. Many of them came that same night. The first to close was the former lead singer of Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne. The second signing was a glorious one and a real coup — Queen! Signing Freddie Mercury’s band, famous for their high standards, was critical in convincing other artists and their managers to come on board. It started an avalanche, not of bands wanting to talk, but rather pleading for an invitation. Medina recalled with a smile: “In the hotel suite where I was staying, there was a pool table. On it, I spread pieces of paper, trying to mix and match bands and work out the best schedule for each day of Rock in Rio. It was like a chess match. The fans of one band might be totally hostile to the fans of another one scheduled for the same night. On the other hand, two other bands might have tremendous affinities, but the band members themselves might refuse to take the stage at the same time. It was a complicated problem, but a delicious one ...” Still, in one week the roster was complete. The last to sign was James Taylor. Medina had already packed his bags to return to Brazil and was eating his lunch at the hotel restaurant when a stranger stood in front of his table. “James Taylor would be perfect for your festival,” he said. “I think so, too. He was one of the first ones we approached, but I was told he doesn’t do shows anymore.” “He’s holed up on some farm. But, for an event of this magnitude, I think he’ll say yes.” Sure enough, he did.
However, Roberto Medina’s troubles were not yet over. The governor of Rio de Janeiro decided that the festival could not be held on the grounds chosen. Medina was furious. Complaints rained down on the governor from all sides — politicians, artists, students and businessmen complained. There was so much pressure exerted, amplified by the press from all over Brazil, that the governor had to back down and approve the site, but on one condition: The City of Rock would have to be demolished within 30 days of the festival’s conclusion. Medina thought that the idea of demolishing the place was merely a face-saving measure. After all, it would be like demolishing the governor’s palace at the end of his term. Relieved, Medina took a deep breath and carried on.
C hapter V
Creating good vibes
By now, the hoopla surrounding the festival, the artists rumored to be on board and the construction of The City of Rock was generating plenty of free press. Still, a sustained campaign was needed to create a positive image in the media and among the public. It was not simply a matter of publicizing the festival and making it a household name. What was needed was to generate a whole mystique of peace, love and brotherhood surrounding the event. After Woodstock, rock concerts were becoming increasingly neurotic and brutal. Skirmishes between gangs, gratuitous beatings, overdoses, stampedes, deaths — all had become familiar themes in media coverage. Roberto Medina had one year to change this image. At 12 pm on the dot, on January 11, 1985, the gates would be opened. And at 6 pm on the dot, the first act would begin their set. This festival would run on Swiss time, not Brazilian. It was the only way they could pull off this madness. A pebble in the pond Roberto recalled: “If I had summoned journalists, when it was still all a dream, to tell them that within twelve months we’d hold the greatest music festival in the world, on a piece of land we’d still not acquired, financed by money we didn’t have yet, featuring the biggest names in the world of rock, who barely knew the festival existed, I can only imagine the headlines the next day: ‘Ad man goes crazy in front of press corps and is rushed to the asylum’.” “We began by tossing the proverbial pebble in the pond and watching the concentric circles expand,” Medina said. “The first step was to create letterhead, envelopes, business cards and press kits with the Rock in Rio logo. The purpose was to establish, right from the get-go, a unique personality for the event, separate from that of Artplan. The ad agency would continue performing their normal duties for their clients, before, during, and after the festival. From an operational standpoint, Rock in Rio was simply one more Artplan account — the difference being that some of the ad agency’s top executives, starting with the president, would be dividing their time between the two enterprises. The first letter to go out on Rock in Rio stationery was a call for help from record labels, the trade press and music directors of the principal radio stations aimed at the youth in Brazil. In unpretentious language, without harping on the size of the event, the letter signed by Roberto Medina explained how the festival wished to promote greater harmony among Brazil’s youth by bringing their musical idols to Rio de Janeiro the following year. Then he wrote of the festival’s desire to select the musical talent based on the opinions of critics and fans. He asked for the recipients’ help in identifying their favorite bands and soloists from Brazil and abroad. Lastly, he asked that they 23
forward to him the addresses for the fan clubs. This “humility” had the intended effect — both in terms of good will generated as well as useful information obtained. The recipients felt flattered to have been approached and immediately got with the program: They sent off lists of names and contacts, and they praised the initiative, in print and on the air. The record companies sent copious and detailed information on their artists and volunteered to make the initial contact with their agents, in a show of support for the festival. Although incipient, the Rock in Rio brand was beginning to make headway with the key players in the music industry. The next step was to mobilize the fans of Queen, Iron Maiden, Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne, among others. It’s surprising how many such clubs exist in Brazil! Letters began arriving by the hundreds from the remotest corners of the country. Many of them reported how they had plans in place to flood their idols with letters, demanding their presence at Rock in Rio. Others, even without knowing where and when the festival would be, were already making plans to charter buses and wanted more details. Meanwhile, news was strategically leaked to the popular press in dribs and drabs so as to whet the curiosity of reporters and editors. Until finally, the time came to pull the curtain and to reveal the full scope of the event. This was done through the announcement of four important developments that showed the festival was for real: Real estate developer Carvalho Hosken, who owned several plots in the area, was loaning the land to be used for the festival; Brahma would join forces with Artplan and be a major sponsor; several international megastars expressed strong interest in participating in the festival; and Brazil’s most powerful TV network had “adopted” Rock in Rio. Around this time, Roberto Medina began giving numerous interviews explaining the event, its goals, philosophy and operations. This was followed by TV coverage every time an artist, in Brazil or abroad, confirmed they had signed. “By now,” Medina recalled, “the press had begun following developments closely. Our contact with the local and foreign press was almost on a daily basis. From mid-‘84 to January ‘85, I became a full-time rocker. I’d go on TV shows, even those with almost zero ratings because they could still reach ten or twenty thousand young people, who in turn could spread the word — they were trendsetters. I also made the rounds of colleges, universities, clubs and associations.” Getting the word out Finally, the time came for the most important and delicate stage of the marketing strategy: To convince the public that Rock in Rio was a festival of peace, love and joy. The word “rock” was a loaded one. It would be necessary to overcome prejudices, to inform, to clarify and to persuade. The coverage surrounding the construction of The City of Rock, which was moving forward at an increasingly frantic pace, was already impressive. Meanwhile, members of the Rock in Rio organizing team, in their press releases, their contact with officials, at lectures, or at debates, were showing themselves to be highly disciplined in delivering a consistent message meant to soften the negative image 25
surrounding rock festivals. It was at this point that Artplan’s creative team unveiled a brilliant series of ads and spots. They were done in the style of mini-documentaries recorded at The City of Rock construction site and featured interviews with actors, musicians and singers who had great sway over young people. These celebrities emphasized the good vibes surrounding the event. Other spots highlighted the cutting edge technology that would be employed to make the event thrilling and yet safe for the public. Ads in major newspapers and magazines displayed The City of Rock’s ground plans, highlighting the dozens of entrances and exits strategically located to ensure the smooth flow of people in all circumstances. The ads also highlighted the well-equipped mini-hospital being built, and how it would be connected to the city’s major medical centers via helicopters. Interviews on the street showed that kids were reacting positively to the peace offensive. On the streets of Rio, bumper stickers with the Rock in Rio logo and the phrase “I’m going” were rampant — a fad that soon spread to other Brazilian cities. When two “tagged” cars would stop next to each other at a traffic light, the bonding between the drivers was instantaneous. Even the oldest and most cautious were becoming believers; it had become safe to believe it was possible to have joy without chaos. Time to conquer the world Things were going well enough in Brazil. Now, the time had come to convince the entire planet of Rio de Janeiro’s beauty, the joy of its people, the excitement surrounding the festival, and that Brazilians could organize an event of this magnitude in an atmosphere of order and peace. This would only be possible if the country’s largest television network was on board. Medina asked for a meeting with Roberto Marinho, owner of the all-powerful TV Globo. Medina began the meeting by saying that he was not there to talk about music, but about patriotism. Brazil was emerging from the dark years of a military dictatorship, and it was once again becoming a full-fledged democracy. But the country’s image abroad continued to be poor due to economic problems, acute social and economic issues, and negative coverage by the international media. The time had come to change this image. In January 1985, elected officials in Congress would be electing the first civilian president in over twenty years. That same week, an event would take place in Rio de Janeiro conceived as much more than a music festival, in spite of the many famous musicians who would participate. Both in essence and strategy, Rock in Rio was an ambitious public relations offensive meant to overcome cynicism, promote self-esteem, generate income and jobs, promote development, and project an image abroad of a country capable of doing great things. The success or failure of this event would depend largely on the support of the media. Roberto Marinho called Jose “Boni” de Oliveira Sobrinho, Globo TVs CEO, who had been following the events closely, into the room. Marinho said: “We’re going to be a part of this. Send our boys in!” 27
C hapter V I
With about three months to go before the event, construction at The City of Rock seemed to have come to a standstill. Every day a new problem emerged. It was not exactly surprising for a project of the size, but it could all be downright depressing. After a particularly bad day, Medina felt like canceling the whole thing and skipping town. As he walked to his car through the colossal construction site, where everything seemed half-finished, three young men who were passing by recognized him and ran toward him. They seemed elated and they began singing the praises of Rock in Rio. Bombarded by compliments and questions, Medina was caught off guard. He vented his dismay to them. Shocked, the young men remained silent for a few seconds. Then they surrounded him, and began shouting at him, preventing him from getting into his car. They were outraged. They screamed that the festival no longer belonged to him, but rather to the millions of Cariocas and Brazilians who longed to attend the party, proud that their land would be a source of admiration around the world. He would have to move forward with Rock in Rio, whether he wanted to or not! His first reaction was one of fear. Then, suddenly, an inner strength emerged. Right there and then, he pledged he would deliver what was required of him, come what may. Before leaving for home, he called a meeting for that same night. Standing in front of his team, he informed them they’d have to redouble their efforts and work days and nights, Saturdays and Sundays. “We’ll recruit more people to join this fight. If we need more money, we’ll find it. From now on we don’t stop, not even to take a breath.” The construction site became an anthill of activity. Volunteers began arriving in droves to help. On December 8th, the press was invited for a tour of The City of Rock. The US $11 million project had been completed in four and a half months. A three-meter-high, two-kilometer-long wall surrounded the site. One hundred and forty turnstiles were installed, more than twice that of Maracanã Stadium. Ninety kilometers of cables were laid underground. The main attraction was a triple revolving stage, 5.6 thousand square meters around. “That was an innovation,” Medina said. “The goal was to save time. In other countries, the public had to wait an hour for the next band to enter the stage. I wanted the next two acts to be warming up backstage while the first one played.” 30
The stages ran smoothly on tracks, and a trick of mirrors guaranteed that the changeover would be imperceptible to anyone in the audience. In this way, breaks would last no more that 15 minutes. For Brazilian musicians, the first Rock in Rio was a watershed. When media coverage began, it was not all positive. Medina was panned for investing millions in an event that promoted foreign rock stars and gave short shrift to Brazilian artists. But, as more information began to be released, the mood changed. Once it was revealed that organizers had scrupulously scheduled Brazilian and American acts in equal numbers, and that not only Brazilian rock bands would be represented, but that a significant number of Brazilian musical styles would also be highlighted, the climate changed entirely. The opportunity to perform before hundreds of thousands of people live (plus millions via broadcast), the sheer size of the venue and the cutting edge light and sound equipment, meant new and established bands eagerly vied to play the festival. Some even offered to play for free, if need be. That first Rock in Rio changed many things in Brazil. Forgotten stars shone anew, young revelations became stars overnight. The technical quality of shows took a huge leap forward. Practitioners of the most varied styles of Brazilian music realized they could coexist in peace and play in front of the same enthusiastic audiences.
C hapter V I I
Respect for the audience
Roberto Medina could not let up in the final stretch. Was there something he’d overlooked? Would the deadlines and schedules be strictly adhered to? Gerry Stickells, the event’s American executive producer, said No: “Rockers are rebels, they don’t keep to schedules,” he said. Medina’s response was immediate: The vast majority of shows would be on weekdays. The public would need enough time to leave the grounds, go home, sleep, work the next day and come back in a good mood for the next night’s show. “We can tolerate ten to fifteen minute delays. More than that won’t do!” Stickells replied that unfortunately, he could make no such guarantees. Less than one week later, two days before the festival, Roberto hosted a cocktail party at his home, with most of the stars in attendance. It was an unforgettable moment. A jam session broke out with George Benson on piano — the same one used by Sinatra in his performance — and Ivan Lins on vocals. Suddenly, Medina asked for everyone’s attention: “Welcome to my home,” he said. “I’d like to make an important announcement: I promised you the best sound, and I’ve delivered. The best lighting, and I’ve delivered. The biggest stage in the world, and I’ve delivered. I’m doing my part to make this event a big success. I say this because I’ve been told rockers don’t keep to schedules. My answer to that is, here they do. I’ve only paid fifty percent of your appearance fee. If anyone is five minutes late, I won’t pay the rest. That’s all, thanks. Enjoy the party.” The greater problem was getting bands off the stage. The Brazilian singer Lulu Santos was so excited during his set that he couldn’t stop. He went over by twenty minutes. The stage turned, whisking the artist backstage.
Attendees could buy single tickets or the Rock in Rio Passport.
C hapter V I I I
Noon on the dot
At last, January 11, 1985, the date so awaited and feared, arrived. By the crack of dawn, thousands of young people from all over Brazil and from many countries around the world were eagerly awaiting the opening of the gates of The City of Rock. Many had been camped out for days in tents assembled near the festival grounds. At exactly 12 pm, the gates opened, and the nearly one hundred and fifty turnstiles began spinning and funneling tens of thousands of people onto the grounds. Once inside, the fans rushed onto the huge lawn in front of the stage vying for the best spots. Many friendships were forged sitting on the grass over the next six hours while they waited for the first show to start. Roberto Medina watched everything from the window of a VIP suite, thinking back on all of the setbacks and triumphs, all of the anxiety and joy he’d experienced in the months leading up to that moment. He hadn’t managed to sleep and arrived in the early morning hours. He remembered a conversation he’d had the night before with a female reporter who’d covered Rock in Rio from the very beginning and who’d become emotionally invested in the event. “Roberto, I don’t understand. I’ve practically been camped out for two weeks at The City of Rock. I’m tense as hell, why are you so calm?” Medina opened up to her: “Léa, I feel like I died a long time ago. I’ve been pretending I was alive. I think the time’s come for my resurrection.” What followed is a success story that is now known the world over. The legend is now confused with facts, the sheer magnitude of the numbers tells a story of great prowess. What they can never measure is the intensity of emotions that went into the enterprise. On the last night, after the closing celebrations, returning home under beautiful moonlight after ten days of relentless rain, Roberto Medina thought back to a quote by Brazilian writer Monteiro Lobato: “Dreams are reality in a cosmic state.”
C hapter I X
Being and doing
On June 6, 1990, Roberto Medina was kidnapped. The Red Command is a major Brazilian criminal organization that operates on several fronts: drug trafficking, arms smuggling, stolen vehicles, bank robberies and kidnappings, among others. They’ve become increasingly sophisticated, and by 1990 their criminal expertise was beginning to rival that of the main international crime syndicates in the world. By then, they had already constituted a real threat to Brazilian society. Earlier that year, police uncovered evidence of a major operation to kidnap several leading authorities, including the cardinal of Rio de Janeiro, and to exchange them for jailed gang members. The plan was foiled, but it remained in force, with one major change. Instead of exchanging their victims for prisoners, the kidnappings would serve as a source of money to bribe those who could facilitate prison escapes. The first target chosen was Roberto Medina, for his public image and his personal relationship with the governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro. In a lightning-quick attack, they grabbed Medina as he left his office, threw him on the floor of their car and fled, firing shots everywhere. Hours later, wounded, terrified, not knowing where he was, Medina found himself huddled in a hideout yearning for the nightmare to end. Day in, day out, his captors played a game with him — one of them would treat him reasonably well while others persistently terrified him. Psychologically fragile and physically battered by the constant threats and assaults, wracked by insomnia and poor nutrition, he’d spent most of his time lying on the floor of a dark and smelly cubicle. Roberto suffered as he thought of his family and how they’d take the news, especially his father, who was ill. When he wanted to go to the bathroom, he’d have to knock on the door in code, then two of his captors would lead him along a corridor past men toting machine guns. Afraid, dressed in filthy clothes, he’d have to listen to threats and taunts as he walked the gauntlet. “It was endless torture. You can’t help thinking that, at any moment, you might be murdered,” he said. One of his kidnappers was in the habit of pointing a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. Roberto had no way of knowing if there were bullets inside. Each click was like a little death.
“How much money can you raise, Medina?” “One million, maximum,” he answered. “You might be able to get that much out of my family, but it won’t be easy. We’d have to borrow it, or take it from the company. But no more than that.” “You’re lying!” The leader unleashed a punch that tore into Medina’s face and caused him to fall backward. He hit his head on a closet and began to bleed. Three men tied him while another one wielded an ax, threatening to bludgeon him. As terrified as he was, Medina decided to stand firm with regards to the ransom. At one point, he exploded in a fit of rage that surprised even himself. He collapsed in a state of shock that lasted two days. The discovery that the ransom they were seeking now seemed unattainable put the criminals on edge. In such cases, the longer the negotiations, the greater the risks. Forty-eight hours later, the head of the gang returned to talk to Medina. “You insist you only have a million ...” “That’s all I have! You’ll never get more than that.” “So, I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll look into your story. If what you say is true, I’ll kill the guy who told me you’re worth more. But if you’re the liar, I’ll kill you right here.” “It’s a deal!” Thereafter, events progressed swiftly. The kidnappers asked for more money. If the family didn’t have it, let them raise it. Friends, clients, business partners and even strangers came forward to help. Police and government officials followed events discreetly and guided the family’s every move. Negotiators with experience in kidnappings entered the talks. Finally, a possible deal was worked out, the ransom was paid and, after fifteen endless days, the ordeal ended. Roberto Medina was released. Over the years, the kidnappers in question were either identified, arrested or killed, some in clashes with police, others murdered by rival factions in prison. Gang members usually have short lives. After more than twenty years, the memories still burn. Medina does not like to talk about it. He granted a single interview after his release, and he locked himself in his house for a long time. Very slowly, the trauma gave way to the joy of being alive and aware of how lucky he was. Spending long periods of time with his family, without interruption, something previously impossible due to his job, talking a lot with his very emotionally shaken children, reading, listening to music, watching good movies without leaving home — all helped restore a sense of normalcy. But the scars remained. The only part of the ordeal he makes a point of not forgetting were the thoughts that went
through his mind in the dark little room where he’d been confined. Medina reflected out loud, “In extreme situations, we realize that what we are or what we own means very little. Our feelings, status, assets, these things all hang by a thread. Privileges handed down to us mean nothing in life. Today, I know we’re only what we do. And if we do it with enough dedication and greatness, without fear, with the determination to always move forward and leave the world a bit of a better place, then we justify our existence. Only in this way does life start to make sense.”
C hapter X
Five years had gone by since the first Rock in Rio and Roberto Medina had no intention of organizing a second one. He was still weary and disgusted. In spite of how safe and well-organized the event had been, despite the highly positive image it projected of Rio de Janeiro, despite the boost to the economy and the tax revenues generated, the then governor refused to renew their license, and The City of Rock had to be demolished under widespread protests. Major investments in infrastructure were irretrievably lost. These could only have been recovered through new shows at the venue. Medina turned his energies to his advertising agency. He needed to keep the mystical company alive and help it recoup its losses. With newfound energy and creativity, Artplan resumed creating highimpact campaigns for its clients. One beautiful, sunny day, Medina received a call from his client and friend, Jorge Giganti, head of Coca-Cola in Brazil. Their conversation has a place in show business history. “Medina, when are you doing the next Rock in Rio?” “Never, I’m tired.” “Well, if you don’t do it, I will. All of Brazil is clamoring for it!” In jest, trying not to dwell on a subject that was still a sore point, Roberto replied: “Go for it, you have my blessing.” Giganti did go for it. One month later, he scheduled a meeting at Artplan to tell Medina: “All right, Roberto,” he said. “I’ll do Rock in Rio, but only if you come along for the ride. I’ll bankroll it, but I need you and your expertise.” Medina, sensing he was serious, warned Giganti of the risks and difficulties involved. Failing to dissuade him, he asked for time to think. Then came the kidnapping.
While he recovered at home, the businessman received a new call from the president of Coca-Cola in Brazil. “Obviously you’re not thinking of doing Rock in Rio II anymore, right?” Giganti asked. “Now, I am.” They agreed to have lunch. It would be the first time Roberto had come out of his self-imposed seclusion. “I thought you wouldn’t want to do the event anymore.” “I don’t know if I want to or not, I just know I need to. My ideas are still not very clear, and I’m pretty sure I can’t do this by myself. But I think it’s my duty to warn you that I think you’re running a very great risk if you do this with me.” “I trust in your ability to get things done. I’m sure it’ll be a success, and it’ll be very good for Rio, for CocaCola and for you.” “It’ll be great for me. The best thing in the world for me right now is to have a new dream to chase.” They shook on it. Medina returned to L.A. He spent the next 45 days working nonstop. One morning, he surprised himself humming the lyrics to a song performed at the first Rock in Rio: “Starting all over again will be worth it ...” You can’t put on a Rock in Rio without a lot sweat and the occasional tears. There were many obstacles. The first one: Where to hold the festival? For starters, The City of Rock had been demolished. Luckily, the new governor wholeheartedly supported the project and the event was allowed to move to Maracanã Stadium, where they would try to create a new The City of Rock on a much smaller scale. The new venue was built in just 35 days. The stadium was adapted to receive 700,000 spectators in nine nights. For safety reasons, Maracanã went through four inspections to identify and correct flaws. Roberto Medina put on Rock in Rio II on a much smaller scale than the first, but with all the expertise and gear required for a show of the original’s size. He decided to take advantage of the stadium’s round shape to transform it into a spaceship. In L.A., Medina worked again with Gerry Stickells, now 58 years old (28 in the business), who had been recruited a second time to produce the festival. He knew the antics of the stars and how to deal with them. Judas Priest, for example, required two Harley Davidsons for their entrance on stage. George Michael was seduced by a video with stunning shots of Rio’s coastline Medina made before traveling to the US. Medina almost had to give up on Prince. The singer wanted a limo to get around the city, 200 towels backstage, French mineral water and a grand piano in his suite. He also wanted a ban on the sale of alcoholic
beverages during his performances. Upon landing in Rio de Janeiro, claiming that the city was violent, the star requested a brigade of 50 security guards. Medina only refused him the imported mineral water and the limo. “What’s he think, this is Fantasy Island?” Medina asked. The possibility of booking Pink Floyd was discussed. Feelers were sent out, and the group seemed open to the invitation. Although very high, their appearance fee was doable. However, a jumbo jet would have been required to transport their equipment. Roberto became discouraged. “I even looked into chartering a plane in Russia, which would have been cheaper. It turns out, though, that we would have had to interrupt the festival just to set up their equipment. I figured it would have taken three days to set up and two to take down. I gave up. There was no way to pay for it all.” Rock in Rio II booked twenty-two international artists and eighteen national ones. More diverse than the first festival, it brought together names like Colin Hay, Santana, Information Society, INXS, Joe Cocker and Run DMC. Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin’s sensational lead singer, alleged that he’d fallen sick and canceled. He even sent a doctor’s note from London, but what was said behind the scenes was that he was afraid to fly because of the first Gulf War. It was said that he was especially fearful to fly on any airlines from the UK, which had sent troops to fight Saddam Hussein. During the conflict in the Middle East, Rock in Rio became a platform for peace. Emotional and heartfelt calls to end the war and to save the planet radiated out to the whole world from Rio. A surprise was planned for opening night: The Brazilian Symphony Orchestra was supposed to kick off the festivities with a medley of passages from rock history. Unfortunately, torrential rains (always the rain!) prevented the presentation from going on. Still, after six years of silence, the first day drew 100,000 fans, leaving Jimmy Cliff, booked at the last moment, in awe. Opening night was January 23, 1991. Upon his arrival at the stadium, Roberto Medina was met by a large number of metalheads gathered outside the entrance. With their heavy chains and black T-shirts, they wanted in no matter what. And there were no more tickets. Catching a glimpse of the “owner of Rock in Rio,” and disgusted at the situation, they tried to overturn his car. The security team barely held back the mob, while the driver sped away. “I didn’t know whether to feel worried or proud, but at that moment I realized that even the largest stadium in the world was not big enough for an event like Rock in Rio. At the first The City of Rock you could fit twelve Maracanãs,” Medina said.
Many of the metalheads that day had come to see Guns N’ Roses, then the most popular band on the planet. The band brought an entourage of forty-five people with them to Rio, including bodyguards, techs, official photographers and friends. On his first trip to Rio, lead singer Axl Rose, the undisputed star of the festival, became angry at the crowd of fans and onlookers gathered outside of his hotel, and he hurled a barrage of objects out of his window. It wasn’t enough to scare his fans away. The band’s first show in Latin America was Rock in Rio II’s second largest attendance. Over 120 thousand people listened to “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City.” Guns N’ Roses were in fine form. Slash outdid himself on the solos of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and the theme from “The Godfather.” Shirtless, wearing tight red, white and blue bicycle shorts, Axl Rose worked the stage as if he were competing in an Olympic event. With his long hair in disarray and his body covered in tattoos, he embodied the return of the ‘70s era of rock ‘n’ roll. Approximately 580 million spectators in fifty-five countries watched Rock in Rio II. This was the equivalent of US $75 million in national and international coverage. It was a fantastic return on investment for the sponsors. Giganti told reporters on the eve of the opening night of Rock in Rio II, that if the event were canceled then and there, Coca-Cola would already have come out ahead. This time, unlike in 1985, fifty percent of the technology and labor — representing thousands of jobs — was Brazilian. These workers helped turn the stadium into a giant intergalactic spaceship. Maracanã Stadium resembled a sci-fi movie set with three audio spotlights, including 480 airplane lights, installed on the stadium roof. It was an unprecedented showcase of high-tech wizardry, with plenty of special effects and laser shows. Only six years had transpired since the first Rock in Rio — but Brazilian light and sound engineers had taken a giant leap forward and evolved one hundred years, Medina said. “In the beginning they were like pilots flying puddle jumpers, and we gave them a Boeing. Now that they’d become familiar with the foreign technology, we gave them a flying saucer.” Although the investment had been higher, Rock in Rio II did not transport the audience to the same levels. It was missing the contagious big party atmosphere of the first festival. The spirit of Woodstock had not descended within the concrete walls of Maracanã Stadium. “The magic wasn’t the same,” Medina admitted. “To be honest, I didn’t get very excited by the whole thing. The energy was not the same. Rock in Rio, for me, is The City of Rock. The green lawn, the opening of the gates, people running in, throwing themselves onto the grass, kissing it — no stadium, no matter how big, can replicate that feeling of communion among the fans.”
Friends Asked which artist most moved him, in either of the festivals, Medina did not hesitate. “It was the time James Taylor played Rock in Rio I. It was delightful — it turned into a big ball with 250 thousand guests. Couples kissed innocently on the grass, others waltzed. Strangers hugged. People were smiling all around, others wept they were so moved. James Taylor cried too. He sang and played for almost two hours, and he didn’t want to leave the stage.” Even George Benson, a star in his own right, who had the unenviable task of following Taylor, got caught up in the atmosphere and didn’t seem bothered by the delay in any way. He just asked that the second night when both were scheduled to play again, that he be allowed to go on first, leaving Taylor free to stay on stage for as long as he wanted. James Taylor had been a superstar in the ‘70s, but had experienced serious drug problems and a major heartbreak, and he’d been out of the public eye lately and was starting to be forgotten. It had been five years since he’d set foot on a stage. Later, he spoke of his rebirth in Brazil. “Rock in Rio was an experience that changed my life. I clearly remember Roberto Medina, this amazing businessman, personally inviting me to the festival. It surprised me. How could such a powerful producer be so sensitive? He encouraged me at a difficult moment. In 1985 I was still trying to find my way. It must have been the largest paying crowd I’ve ever performed in front of. I was stunned and humbled by their enthusiasm, by the passion of these people who knew my music so well. It was moving — it’s hard to put into words. I’ll remember that night forever, the many friends I didn’t know I had, holding up thousands of lighters in the air and singing ‘You’ve Got a Friend.’ I composed ‘Only a Dream in Rio’ for them.” “It was the most intuitive booking I’ve ever done in my entire career,” Medina said. “I got that one right!” The first festival lost money. The second one broke even. They had contractual obligations and the state of Rio de Janeiro, one of the major sponsors, a few months before the opening failed to come through. To make matters worse, the artist’s fees were sky high, perhaps because of the war. Medina recalled: “I didn’t make a profit, but I had fantastic opportunities to come out ahead in other ways, including attracting new partners. If the second Rock in Rio did not have the same romanticism as the first, at least we expanded our know-how. By broadcasting to London and New York without a hitch, we also proved our ability to cover the globe. Anyway, we didn’t make money, but we strengthened the Rock in Rio brand abroad.” With the comeback complete, Rock in Rio was no longer a magical happening of the past. It had become the largest entertainment brand in all of Latin America. And it took a decisive step toward becoming one of the most valuable brands in the world.
C hapter X I
Ten years into a new millennium
The second Rock in Rio in 1991 was not enough. Music fans wanted more. However, the overall situation in Brazil was becoming worse and worse. With the failure of another government economic plan intended to stabilize the currency, the country entered into political and economic crisis. Inflation reached new heights. For Medina, it had come time to think about protecting his company and helping his clients weather the storm by using creative and bold strategies. Brazilians now rarely thought of saving or investing but rather of spending their money as soon as it came into their hands, before prices doubled from one day to the next. In such a climate, to survive and maybe even prosper, a company had to create strong emotional bonds with customers. This is not done with genteel advertising. The times called for high-impact campaigns, which could attract shoppers to the stores and give families an experience to help them forget the anxieties of their daily lives. “I saw this as a favorable opportunity for our agency, which has always approached advertising as more than mere commercials or ads. Artplan does events,” Medina said. In Christmas of 1995, the DisneyMania BarraShopping campaign was all the rage in Rio de Janeiro. That’s when Artplan and the largest shopping center developer in Latin America brought the best shows Disney had to offer to Rio. Previously, these shows were restricted to Florida theme parks. Millions of Brazilians dreamed of attending them, but it was a thrill few could attain. The public came out in droves to the BarraShopping mall, even resulting in traffic jams. Cinderella’s castle, the largest replica ever built outside of a Disney park, could be seen from miles away. An arena with a capacity of eight thousand held three shows per day. Shoppers who spent more than US $35 were given two tickets and were entered into a contest to visit Disneyworld and spend 11 days in Miami and Orlando. It was a huge success. Stores had record sales and several sold out their inventory. Medina could not rejoice, though. His father, Abraham, the Jew who loved Christmas, died that December at age seventy-eight. A tree emerges from the water In 1996, another bold campaign seduced residents of Rio de Janeiro. So much so, that it has become a Christmas tradition in that city.
Bradesco Seguros, Brazil’s largest insurer, had shown interest in strengthening its image in Rio de Janeiro. They wanted a Christmas campaign that went beyond the usual fare and actually thrilled people. More than just a campaign, Medina created a monument to the Christmas spirit, which has become the newest image displayed on the city’s postcards. Over lunch, Medina sketched the idea on a napkin for the client. It was a giant floating Christmas tree on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon; its dark waters came to life with the reflection of thousands of colored lights. “At the time, I had no idea if it was technically possible to float such a heavy structure. I just knew it was necessary, so it would have to be possible,” Medina later told his staff. Thanks to the engineers and designers — and to the relief of everyone involved — the tree floated. It was 55 meters tall and was dressed with thousands of computer-controlled bulbs, producing stunning effects. Concerts, choral performances and plays were staged on the shores of the lagoon. The houses and buildings overlooking the large body of water tried to outdo each other and vied for awards with their holiday decorations. On opening night, thousands of people, many of them excited children, eagerly awaited the lighting of the tree. When the moment came, cheers and applause echoed through the waterfront neighborhoods. The event was such a success that the city’s residents adopted the tree as a landmark. The Bradesco Seguros Christmas has been repeated for almost twenty years. The tree continues to fascinate people who show up in greater and greater numbers, many from other regions of the country. The production team tries to outdo themselves every year. Designers are constantly coming up with new ideas and adding elements that surprise even the most careful observers. The day the lights go on is the third most awaited day of the year in Rio, second only to Carnival and New Year’s Eve. In 1999, The Tree, by then an imposing 76 meters, made the Guinness Book as the tallest floating decoration in the world. And it hasn’t stopped growing. Currently, it measures 82 meters, the equivalent of a 27-story building. The energy it consumes is enough to light 150 apartments. The 700-square-meter platform that holds the tree is big enough to park seventy cars on it. “It was one more crazy idea that worked out,” Medina said. “It seems that Christmas begins when those lights go on and ends when they go out. Every year, when the tree goes up, it receives widespread media coverage, causing a huge sensation, even in other countries.” In fact, the idea has crossed the ocean to Europe. The Millennium BCP/SIC Christmas Tree was the largest on that continent. Its bright lights against the Lisbon backdrop attracted about 500,000 visitors. Created by Roberto Medina for the Portuguese in 2004, it became a holiday symbol whose image was broadcast all over Europe. Another version, The Luminous Tree, has thrilled families in Warsaw, Poland, and Bucharest, Romania, for many years.
After the hurricane The 20th century drew to a close and a new Brazilian administration, with strong support from citizens, managed to bring inflation under control, restore purchasing power and establish a favorable climate for investments. Once again, it was possible for Brazilians to think in the medium and long term. The calls for a new Rock in Rio increased in frequency and intensity. Roberto Medina felt the need to respond. In 1997, he created the Rock in Rio Café, a permanent tribute to the event, open 365 days a year. The steel and glass design is a mix of nostalgia and futurism inspired by the guitar on the brand’s logo. Over US $7 million was invested in a space 2 million square meters in size. It boasts computerized table service, electronic bills, moving walls, 800 spotlights, 4,850 bulbs and 60 speakers with 20,000 watts of combined power. Among the items displayed at the café were the guitar used by Scorpions in 1985, George Benson’s white suit, Santana’s bandana and Faith No More’s cymbals. Every night, when Rock in Rio Café opened its doors, images of the two festivals would be projected onto a giant screen to the sounds of the festival’s anthem. With nearly 50,000 visitors a month, Rock in Rio Café has become the hottest spot in Rio’s nightlife. On the heels of it success, franchises were opened in Salvador and Porto Seguro, in the northern state of Bahia. “The reasons I invested in Rock in Rio Café were to keep the brand alive and to build a kind of cathedral in honor of the festival,” Medina explained. Meanwhile, around the world ... The future had been galloping at breakneck speed and pointing the way to new demands and opportunities, advances and obstacles, hazards and warning signs. Roberto Medina, always a visionary, thought not in terms of a new century but of a new millennium. Over the past decade, the implosion of the Soviet Union, the opening of China’s economy to the world, the political and economic integration of Europe, the great democratic strides in Latin America and the major changes to US domestic and foreign policy after the Cold War profoundly changed international relations, opening borders and bringing people closer together. Technologies, until recently unimaginable, especially in the field of communication, accelerated the progress of history and made all sorts of equipment, processes and ways of thinking obsolete, which until recently had been cutting edge. The miniaturization of computers, the Internet and the emergence of universal mobile telephony have enveloped the globe in a network of connectivity which has reduced the power of traditional middlemen such as mainstream media, governments, political parties and corporations to shape aspirations, trends and opinions. People all over the world began to interact and share causes at the speed of light.
On the other hand, the irresponsible exploration of natural resources, causing terrible environmental degradation, as well as violence in all its forms, continues to threaten humanity. In the face of this turmoil, what can one person do, for himself, for his family, for his community? Very little. It is absolutely essential that there be a union of many, of all if possible, for a better world.
C hapter X I I
A loud silence
“I’d been asking myself for several years: What could the advertising industry do, and what could I do specifically, someone who worked in the industry, to help change things? Business people are always worried about the bottom line, but the final accounting happens outside of company walls: it happens in the profit and loss ledger of the planet and its billions of inhabitants. And it was obvious that the picture was not at all rosy in the world. The new millennium signaled a time for action.” Roberto Medina remembered the revelation that would forever change the course of Rock in Rio: “I sought inspiration in my own life. I’d learned that the spirit of solidarity lies deep inside of all of us, but there needs to be an external stimulus for it to express itself. Music is a powerful tool for uniting people. Tragedy is another source of unity. I witnessed that when I heard hundreds of thousands of people singing with one voice in Rock in Rio. I also experienced that at the time of my kidnapping, when people I didn’t even know came forth and offered to help. Suddenly, an idea came to me, with the name and all: Rock in Rio — For a Better World.” Rock in Rio, even being out of the media spotlight for ten years, was still fresh in the public’s mind as a symbol of reconciliation. At the dawn of a new era, it would make another comeback, this time leveraging a project of immense appeal. During an early morning walk, Medina discovered the campaign that would make it happen, one that would have the necessary impact on society: three minutes of absolute silence in all of Brazil, including on TV and radio stations. More than just another festival, what he was proposing was an invitation to all Brazilians to reflect. It was time to join forces against violence and indifference to help create a more safe, just and happy world. Medina visualized the entire project in his head, what was needed now was to make it come true. He began by sharing the idea with his team. “We need to put forth arguments in favor of the moment of silence,” he said. Everyone liked the concept, but so-called common sense always has a habit of throwing a bucket of icecold water in the face of bold ideas. It might be possible to convince the television stations, but how about the radio stations? They numbered in the thousands and were scattered all over Brazil. Even Artplan offered to pay for air time, but striking a deal with each one would take a very long time — time they didn’t have.
It was a valid point. Frustrated, Roberto adjourned the meeting and went back to his office. On the way, he passed Mariana, then his assistant and now wife, and muttered: “I need the president to save this project!” Minutes later, Mariana walked into his office: the president was on the telephone. “President, what president?” Medina, asked angrily. “What president? The president of Brazil, of course!” Mariana had misunderstood Medina’s earlier outburst, thinking he’d asked her to reach out to the country’s head of state. She made the call, and it was returned. Medina did not hesitate. “Mr. President, we have a very good idea for all of Brazil, but it can only work with your help.” “Come by tomorrow, let’s talk.” The next day, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso received Medina. The ad man explained the idea and his motivation and added that the festival would be a great tool to publicize social causes and that a percentage of revenues would go to educational programs. Part of the proceeds would go to UNESCO and part would be donated to a non-governmental program that financed programs in thirty poor communities in Rio de Janeiro. They would use their proceeds to help educate young adults — between the ages of 17 and 29 — who were too old for school and had no job training. President Cardoso wanted to know how he could help. “I think everyone should help according to his or her ability. The tool I have at my disposal is music and the ability to motivate people. If we can make that silence very loud, Mr. President, we’ll move the whole world. The problem is I don’t have the power to ask almost 4,000 radio stations to go quiet. If you see to it that they observe three minutes of silence, I’ll handle the TV stations.” The president promised that on the opening night of Rock in Rio III, he would order that 180 seconds of silence be observed on “The Voice of Brazil,” a program broadcast to all stations in the country. Since the time slot was reserved for government use anyway, there would be no costs incurred. Once again, Medina had come out of a meeting achieving the impossible. With this trump card in hand and his self-confidence restored, Medina could now approach TV broadcasters and potential sponsors. He had his pitch memorized:
“Socially responsible companies can help Brazil cover its historical debt to its impoverished citizens. Advertising is an industry whose potential for social good has not yet been fully realized. The businessman who seeks only profit forgets his role as a citizen and thus helps guarantee a catastrophic future for his country. Events and campaigns that mobilize people for social good will play an important role in this process of change we’re undergoing in the new century and in the new millennium. A company that invests in society profits twice: The consumer agrees to pay a little more for the product, and the people who are helped by the initiative will one day become new customers. It is essential that the awareness of large national and international corporations be raised. Those companies that participate in socially responsible actions will make more money and strengthen their brand identity. The choice is simple: either a company stands by while conditions deteriorate and a new criminal takes to the streets every hour, or it inserts itself into this process of change and helps create a new consumer every hour.” The first company to see the light was America On Line. As the lead sponsor, AOL helped make the dreams of thousands of young people come true. It played a fundamental role in helping the project finally take off. Medina recalled: “We needed a master sponsor to kick-start things, a company that could come in with the minimum money required.” Within a few weeks AOL released the first US $10 million. What about the other sponsors? Once the decision had been made to reinvent the festival, Roberto Medina knew that communicating the new vision to potential partners would be a challenge that could only be met by the art of eloquent persuasion. Artplan created a ten-minute video, which provoked all who viewed it to into serious reflection. In the video, a narrator described the world of inequality and pollution that mankind was creating. Strong images, some shocking, were displayed. The video highlighted the importance of businesses linking their brands to social causes in an attempt to build a better world. That video, and its dramatic and striking approach, made Rock in Rio III possible. Brazilian artists invited to play the festival would be paid a standard fee of US $10,000 reflecting that this festival would be seen through the lens of idealism and not financial interest. In June 2000, Brazilian soccer player Ronaldo “The Phenomenon” surprised organizers by writing a check for US $500,000. AOL and Artplan matched the contribution. The money was used to build classrooms for 1,500 primary school students plus dozens of computer labs in poor communities of Rio. In December, Rock in Rio — For a Better World was already a news item in the major media outlets in Brazil and around the world. “From now on, Woodstock should be remembered more for its mystique, than for its numbers,” Medina said in an interview to the American media in Beverly Hills, to launch the festival. “Without being arrogant, I’d like to say: the next Rock in Rio will be the biggest music event in the world.”
C hapter X I I I
Symphony for the new millennium
When Roberto Medina first thought up Rock In Rio — For a Better World, he imagined it not only as a music festival with a social bend, but also as a tribute to beauty, peace and the public. The event would mean a new The City of Rock, one that would look to the future and surpass the design, size and technology of the festivals from the previous century. “I needed to create an environment so audiences, during those seven days, would feel as if they’d entered a new world, and that they were celebrating the arrival of a better future. We would offer them a beautiful, enticing setting — like a dream.” When it was ready, the new The City of Rock was called “the Disney World of the future” by some admirers, who were dazzled by the avant-garde grandeur of the design. The 2001 festival was more audacious, more global, and — with five stages — bigger. The principal one was the Main Stage, reserved for major attractions. During breaks, the public had many other alternatives. The Roots Tent was the world music venue. The Brazil Tent was reserved exclusively for Brazilian artists. The Electro Tent mesmerized fans of electronic music. The Better World Tent was the setting for seminars and highlevel debates with globally respected individuals such as UN Under-Secretary General Maurice Strong, Nobel Peace Prize winner José Ramos Horta and Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, one of the most widely read authors in the world. It was where audience members could come to stop and think. The construction lasted five months, and everything was ready thirty days prior to opening night. Tourists from all over the world visited the construction site to photograph the buildings as they went up at a breakneck pace. On the eve of the inauguration, Roberto Medina called his daughter Roberta, then 22, who had worked extensively in organizing the event, and informed her that, from that moment on, she would be coordinating the festival alone. She was shocked: “Alone? How can I do it alone?” “The City of Rock is ready, the artists have all been signed. You’ve been a part of this every step of the way. If needed, you can count on my experience, which will only help you to a certain extent because each festival is different. But I know you have what it takes.” Roberta Medina was the youngest participant of the original Rock in Rio. At six years old, she went missing
in the construction site where The City of Rock was being built. She recalled crying plenty before they found her, smiling when remembering the experience. Her older brother Rodolfo was recruited as marketing director for Rock in Rio III, and he served as the point person for sponsors. He’d been involved in the early negotiations with AOL, and for many years had managed the Rock in Rio Café, which was sponsored by the company. Friday, January 12, 2001 It was a municipal and state holiday, jet airplanes painted the sky overhead with the colors of the Brazilian flag. Rock in Rio was back! Eyes and ears from the four corners of the world were turned to Brazil. The number one rock station in Moscow and St. Petersburg held a contest where winners won tickets to the festival. At exactly 7 pm, all television stations and 3,232 radio stations in Brazil went silent. Medina looked back: “Three minutes of silence on TV, psychologically, is like a feature film. The list price for that time was about double what we paid. It is the best proof that the broadcasters understood and supported what we were doing. We dealt with a total of 522 stations. That’s how you make a dream come true.” Ten years after their performance had to be cancelled, The Brazilian Symphony Orchestra was finally able to play their rock suite on opening night — this time without rain. The audience welcomed them enthusiastically and asked for an encore. James Taylor returned to the city where he’d found himself anew. Fans travelled back in time when he played the first chords of “You’ve Got A Friend.” And in the moonlight, Sting elicited gasps from fans when he performed hits from The Police. Sunday was a glorious day for devotees of Guns N’ Roses. Once again, no one was more eagerly awaited than Axl. It was his first concert in seven years, and by the fourth song he’d lost his voice. He made it through to the end, though, with the help of the audience. To the cheers of 200,000 people, he repeatedly declared his love for Brazil. On its third day, the festival had already become Brazil’s largest marketing event ever. Alongside the artistic success, the marketing by sponsors at the venue was celebrated for its originality, so much so that it gained the attention of the international press. The January 17th edition of The New York Times devoted special praise to Rock in Rio. The hotels in the city reached 100 percent occupancy. The event mobilized 52 sectors of the city’s economy. Sunday, January 21, the last night of Rock in Rio III, was a very hot ticket — the City of Rock sold out. Although happy, Medina was not entirely satisfied.
“It was too full. I’ll never allow 250,000 people in The City of Rock again. The maximum should be 150,000, in the name of comfort.” The qualitative leap The 2001 festival made it clear just how good Rock in Rio was for the image and self-esteem of Rio de Janeiro. Over seven days, 1.23 million people visited The City of Rock. Medina reflected on the festival’s evolution, “In the second one, in 1991, fifty percent of technical crew was Brazilian. This time around, one hundred percent of the team was Brazilian, and they pulled off the biggest and best event ever organized on the planet, according to foreign experts, who were highly impressed with the technology employed and the infrastructure assembled.” Two million watts were needed to light the grounds, enough energy to light a city of 50 thousand inhabitants. The security personnel were discreet and efficient in their duties and prevented any serious incidents. There was a mini-hospital with 20 beds, three medical stations, seven mobile ICUs and helicopters to evacuate patients. Eighty health care professionals were on site, around the clock. Record consumption The festival was a mega event in every sense. The final tally was: 600,000 liters of beer, 435,000 soft drinks, 910,000 bottles of water, 280,000 cups of juice, 105,000 energy drinks, 630,000 sandwiches and 20,000 pieces of lasagna consumed per day. Rock in Rio III also became a “showroom for sponsors.” Several companies took advantage of the event to launch products, investing US $25 million in the process. The two malls in The City of Rock were packed every day. The sale of licensed products with the Rock in Rio brand yielded significant royalties and translated into excellent numbers for retailers and suppliers. A few days after the event, Rodolfo Medina said: “The brand was the real winner. We managed to strengthen it and solidify it.” The festival also kept the media busy. Two thousand national and international journalists were accredited daily. The press coverage only rivaled that of World Cup soccer games. AOL’s site broadcast the concerts live to 152,000 viewers — a record in Latin America. In January 2001, the provider received an increase of 380 percent in traffic over the same period the previous year. The third incarnation of Rock in Rio promoted a highly positively image of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro to the world. In exchange for US $13 million invested in advertising, sponsors received the equivalent of US $40 million in
free media coverage. In its February 2001 edition, The UK magazine Audience devoted seven pages to the festival. The New York Times ran an excellent profile of Roberto Medina in its Art and Culture section. According to the Brazilian Association of Travel Agencies, with the increases in tourism, the event brought US $300 million in revenue to Rio de Janeiro. After losing money in the first and second festivals, finally Roberto Medina had turned a profit. “Artplan came out of this venture as the largest events company in the world,” he said. The fruits of victory Of course, the rewards reaped by Rock in Rio’s new focus on social causes went beyond the business world. After Rock in Rio III, Artplan was employed by the UN to do a project to support children living in war zones. In July of that same year, The City of Rock hosted a graduation ceremony for 3,200 elementary school students. Rock in Rio contributed over US $2 million to the Viva Rio Foundation and UNESCO¹. Seventy classrooms and thirtyfive computer rooms were built in low-income communities. Roberto Medina made a point of personally delivering the computers himself. Six or seven of the youths approached the ad man to talk to him. “We wanted to thank you for doing this for us, for creating an opportunity for us,” one of them said. Touched, Medina replied: “Look, you’re the ones creating an opportunity for me. I should thank you. I’ll explain why I came here ... These computers are not just learning tools: they’re a sign of hope. A sign that the people of this city want to help, to contribute in some way, to do something for you. Thanks for letting me help you. Without hope, there’s no reason to live.”
1 All together the festival financed 28 projects through UNESCO, which benefited thousands of youths throughout Brazil.
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The conquest of Europe
Suddenly, the World Trade Center towers were gone. Nothing in the world seemed solid anymore. Plans, projects, dreams — everything came to a standstill as the world recovered from the shock. When life finally resumed, it was necessary to rethink each and every step. Even the simple act of boarding an airplane became an act of courage. In Brazil, things were no different. Rock in Rio went into hibernation. Talk of hiring artists or obtaining sponsorship in the foreseeable future was useless. Roberto Medina, who was already thinking of taking the festival abroad, turned to the domestic market and concentrated efforts on expanding and diversifying his ad agency in Brazil. He won new clients, developed more striking campaigns and continued backing social programs aimed at building a better world. His son Rodolfo, who had participated in the development of Rock in Rio Café and had been responsible for selling sponsorships and introducing shopping centers in Rock in Rio III, assumed responsibility for new accounts at Artplan, with a mission of expanding operations and growing the agency’s image beyond the world of entertainment. “He became president of the agency in 2007. He’s much better at operations than I am,” his father said with pride. In May 2001, the Dream Factory was born. Medina created the new firm to manage major events produced in Brazil and handed over command to his daughter Roberta, who has great experience in the production and coordination of special projects. The Dream Factory not only provides services to Artplan and its customers, but also organizes the Rio de Janeiro marathon and that city’s street carnival, among other events. Jomar Jr., Roberta and Rodolfo’s brother, is executive producer. Rock in Rio arrives in Portugal By now, organizing another Rock in Rio in Brazil was not a priority for Roberto Medina. Higher up on the list was taking the brand abroad. “When you start, you get a rush from the challenge, but after 1991 it didn’t excite me as much. The physical
and emotional exhaustion is immense. I lost ten pounds in one festival and fell sick in another. That changed when I realized that the festival could be a fantastic social marketing platform, and I organized Rock in Rio III in 2001. Social marketing is the great challenge of modern society. We’re globalizing disasters, but we must also globalize hope.” The opportunity to take Rock in Rio beyond Brazil came when a Brazilian businessman who operates out of Portugal asked for a meeting with Roberto Medina, saying he could help open the doors to Europe. Medina told the businessman that if he were able to obtain the support of local authorities, he would travel to Portugal to begin talks. Within days, Lisbon city councilman Pedro Pinto flew to Brazil and, when he saw the magnitude of the event, he immediately scheduled a meeting in the Portuguese capital. There, Roberto Medina received the necessary government support to proceed with the project. The next step would be to seek sponsors. The festival was starting to become viable. For the first time, the Rock in Rio brand would be exported. In July 2003, in a press conference with members of the Portuguese press, Roberto Medina confirmed that Rock in Rio - Lisbon would become a reality. The event would take place just days before the 2004 European soccer championship, which had Portugal as the host country. The timing could not be better. With the large influx of tourists and journalists, the festival would gain visibility across Europe. Medina began the conference with a charged comment: “Portugal needs to stop thinking small, with the European market just around the corner!” Next, he stressed the importance of Rock in Rio for the growth of tourism, using the example of Rio de Janeiro to demonstrate how the festival is a gold mine for any city. According to him, it would attract visitors from all over the continent and put the world’s focus on Portugal. He added: “Rock in Rio - Lisbon will be broadcast to over 700 million people from at least 60 countries. It’s a privilege for Portugal to stage an event of this size. In Europe, where the distances between countries are small and the proximity to other continents is greater than in Brazil, gaining visibility for the festival will be much easier.” The Portuguese version of the festival would also hold high the banner of social action. Three minutes of silence would be observed for peace, and part of the funds raised would benefit Plan International, an organization that helps children in 45 developing countries. With support from the UN, through the United Nations Development Programme, as well as other respected organizations, Rock in Rio - Lisbon had a prestige unlike any other festival in history, and it happened before the doors even opened. The dates and the location for the event were chosen: May 29th and 30th and June 4th, 5th and 6th, 2004, in the beautiful Bela Vista Park.
The location was strategic — it was next to the airport. At Medina’s request, Lisbon would build The City of Rock to host a festival ten times larger than any other festival ever held in the country. The city of Lisbon was not only investing in the festival but in urban revitalization. Everything built or installed — telephone, electricity, water and Internet equipment and networks — would be left as a legacy for the local population. “This 200-thousand-square-meter space was a real find,” Medina said. “It’s a strategic location: the airport and the subway are right nearby. What was done there exceeded my expectation. We generated jobs, and the space, which had been abandoned for so long, gained new life.” The “I’m going” slogan and marketing campaign, launched in 1984 in Brazil for first Rock in Rio, made its debut in the Portuguese media in November 2003. The Brazilian organizers, with all their expertise, settled in Lisbon the following year. The continuity that the people who had worked in the Brazilian festivals brought to the table would guarantee a quality far superior to anything done in Portugal until then. Three Roberto Medina companies were deeply involved: Artplan, Dream Factory and Better World. The last one, created specifically for the Rock in Rio - Lisbon project, would later help raise the Christmas tree in the city, similar to the one that became a landmark in Rio. Medina made the cover of the December 2003 issue of Billboard, the bible of rock. In the interview, he made his views clear: “I always wanted to globalize the brand, leverage our expertise, everything we’d learned. Why not export technology, sell intellectual property and charge for our intelligence, our creativity? It’s the first time that Brazil is exporting a concept, an entertainment know-how.” Hailed by the Portuguese as the “man who came to revolutionize the world of marketing,” it was in Europe that the businessman concluded that Brazil was an extremely sophisticated country in creating and marketing show business: “The problem in Brazil is the low purchasing power. Tickets there sell for 20 euros, while in Portugal they sell for five times that. Not to mention that the appearance fee charged by foreign bands who travel to Brazil is much higher, depending on the distance.” Why had the event not been named ‘Rock in Lisbon’? someone asked. Medina explained: “Rio de Janeiro is a worldwide brand, and Brazil is a peaceful country in a world full of conflicts. We need to sell this image, we have to export our capacity to innovate, our ability to open paths different from everyone else’s. We need to spread the brand and promote Rio in Europe and throughout the world.”
Peter Gabriel’s signing made headlines. As a rule, the former leader of Genesis and champion of world music, does not participate in festivals, unless it is his own, the WOMAD (World Music, Arts and Dance). However, Roberto Medina went one step further. For the first time in history, a Beatle would perform in Portugal. At the last moment, Paul McCartney agreed to play the festival. An extra day was added to welcome a music god. “Before I gave Frank Sinatra the best moment in his career, something the singer himself told the more than 100 thousand people who filled Maracanã Stadium, I had dreamed of organizing a Beatles reunion for a tour of Brazil. I was beginning talks when a madman killed John Lennon,” Medina recalled. “It was one of the few dreams I was unable to make come true. The signing of Paul McCartney brought me a special joy.” Safety was a top priority for authorities and organizers. There were fears of terrorist attacks, especially after the Madrid bombing of March 11, which killed nearly 200 people. To address this, 1,200 police officers and private security guards were deployed, as well as 500 healthcare professionals, including physicians and nurses, along with 11 ambulances, a hospital, four health centers and a team specially trained to locate explosives inside and outside The City of Rock. “In events such as the Eurocup or Rock in Rio, you have metal detectors, security guards and state police present. Something is more likely to happen on a train, a bus, on the street or in a public building than at the event,” Medina said. A memorable season Fourteen hours of partying in one day! The City of Rock opened its doors at two o’clock in the afternoon and only closed them at four in the morning. In addition to concerts and lectures, there was an area for the practice of extreme sports, such as rock climbing and skateboarding. It was a family environment, and many parents brought their children so they could attend the festival of their dreams. The size of the event surpassed any other musical event ever held in the Portuguese capital. Portugal was then celebrating the 30th anniversary of its “Carnation Revolution,” which had toppled that country’s dictatorship. It was hard to think of a more appropriate occasion to promote the concept of a better world. Maurice Keizer, responsible for the festival’s broadcast rights, said that it was the most widely televised music festival ever. Seventy shows reached nearly 60 countries, as far away as New Zealand, China and India. CBS broadcast the event in prime time to 20 million Americans. On the eve of the event, surveys showed that 99.7 percent of Portuguese knew the name Rock in Rio and 86 percent were in favor of it.
Twenty-five million euros were invested in the project. There were 80 generators and 700 public toilets. The Main Stage measured 70 square meters. Every day on that stage, one Portuguese band, three foreign bands and one Brazilian band took turns playing. Finally, Paul McCartney’s night arrived, the festival’s most eagerly awaited moment. It was two-and-a-half hours of enchantment and nostalgia, with McCartney performing 35 songs, 24 of them from The Beatles catalog. He moved the Portuguese crowd even more by revealing, “Many years ago, I was here on vacation. Traveling from Lisbon to the Algarve, I wrote the lyrics to this song” ... then he broke into the first chords of “Yesterday.” With 240 attractions and 470 hours of performances, the first Rock in Rio organized in Lisbon attracted 385,000 spectators in six days. The attendance was only not higher because of the terrorist threat. After the bombing in Spain, ticket sales fell from 4,000 per day to less than one hundred. “We pulled off one of the biggest musical events to date,” Medina said. “It was a higher attendance than the mythical Woodstock in 1969. It was only surpassed by the three previous editions of Rock in Rio, in Brazil.” The festival was the biggest in Europe, surpassing even the attendance of the much older Glastonbury Festival, in England, which brings together around 110 thousand people. It was such a success that on the last day of the event, an agreement was signed between Roberto Medina, festival sponsors and the city of Lisbon for a new Rock in Rio - Lisbon in 2006. “Rock in Rio is here to stay,” Medina said at a press conference. And so it was. Since then, the event has been held every two years, and 2014 will be going on number five. And it always keeps evolving. In 2004, one could already see an improvement over what had been done in Brazil. New stages were added, and The City of Rock incorporated attractions and activities previously found only in theme parks, such as a Ferris wheel and a zip line. The efficiency was admirable in everything from the security to the rapid cleanup at the end of each night, from service in the bars and kiosks to medical provisions. There were no serious incidents and the behavior of audiences was exemplary. The organizer reciprocated this show of support with improved comfort and facilities. An example was making parts of the venue accessible for people with disabilities. Mayor Pedro Santana Lopes acknowledged that the positive image that the festival projected of Lisbon abroad was worth the €180 million investment. Directly responsible for employing 18,000 people, Rock in Rio Lisbon proved to be a communications phenomenon. The bands themselves expressed admiration for the event’s infrastructure. The volume of ads with the Rock in Rio brand topped €10 million, something that had never happened before. On the social front, the first two Rock in Rio - Lisbon concerts generated about US $1.5 million for childcare institutions in Portugal and in 43 other countries. Mexican guitarist Carlos Santana, who had performed at the Rio
festival, was excited to be back. He made sure to give his testimony: “Roberto Medina not only created the biggest festival in the world, he has also lit a flame of hope by linking this event to an important social cause. Music is his instrument to sow solidarity among people.” “The success led to steps that actually changed our personal lives,” Medina said. “My daughter Roberta took over the helm of the festival once and for all. She moved to Lisbon and married a Portuguese. She only began coming back to Brazil more often in 2011, when we decided to restage the festival in the city where it had been born.” In 2008, Madrid The year 2008 marked another important step: it was the first time Rock in Rio was held in two cities in the same year, bringing about more innovations. In Lisbon, the most popular changes were jam sessions and encounters on the same stage by artists of completely different styles — it was the debut of the Sunset Stage. The lineup included Bon Jovi, Joss Stone, Linkin Park, Metallica, The Offspring and Kaiser Chiefs, among others. That year Rock in Rio - Lisbon began setting an example with regards to the environment. Inorganic waste (paper, plastic, glass, metal, etc.) was collected and sent for recycling before, during and after the event. Sponsors, partners and suppliers joined the effort, implementing procedures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Along with success comes responsibility. Wherever it goes, Rock in Rio develops concrete actions on the social and environmental fronts. This philosophy has resulted in the opening of 70 classrooms in Rio de Janeiro, where 3,200 young people have completed their elementary school education. In Portugal, several institutions have been supported, including a project that installed solar panels on schools, mobilizing thousands of young people in the effort. In Madrid, more than 300 buses were made available for free to the public to encourage the shift to public transportation. One hundred percent of the festival’s CO2 emissions have been offset. With the consolidation of operations in Portugal, Madrid became the next target. Between June and July of 2008, the greatest music and entertainment show in the world premiered in full force in the Spanish capital. The investment topped €30 million. Madrid’s The City of Rock was built in Arganda Del Rey, less than half an hour from Madrid, in an area measuring 200 thousand square meters, roughly equivalent to the grounds in Lisbon. More than a thousand journalists were accredited, twenty percent of them foreigners. The lineup included Lenny Kravitz, Neil Young and Shakira, who made the entire audience get up and dance. Other standouts included Franz Ferdinand, Jack Johnson and the unforgettable Amy Winehouse. In Madrid, social and environmental responsibility was always a top priority. About 1 million dollars has been raised and invested in initiatives aimed mainly at sustainability. That’s not all. Artists and celebrities donated personal items of sentimental value to raise funds for the “Don’t lose a smile” campaign for children with cancer. Funds raised have helped a large number of sick children travel to Barrestown, Ireland, where they could receive
treatment at the Hole in the Wall Foundation, created by actor Paul Newman. The triumph of the brand The critical and popular success of the first Rock in Rio - Madrid was especially gratifying. It posed challenges altogether different from those of previous festivals. For those who think Spanish sounds like Portuguese, they’re in for a big surprise: the madrileños barely understood what the foreign organizers said to them. Many pressing questions were posed by the Brazilians: What was the best way to approach the Spanish market? And how could they best relate to the locals? The business culture, and the economic, political and social reality in the country proved profoundly different from that of Brazil or even neighboring Portugal. Spain is a fragmented country. Castilians, Catalans, Valencians, Basques, Galicians, all coexist under a single flag, each with their own language, customs and histories. It was necessary to find out how to communicate with all of them, on very short notice. One by one, the difficulties were overcome. Rock in Rio succeeded in a country known in Europe for being complex. Like Lisbon, the festival would take place every two years. Roberto Medina even bought a house in Madrid and began spending more time there than in Brazil. He wanted to know more about Europeans and to understand their dreams, their ways of thinking and feeling. By the fourth Portuguese festival, in 2010, it had become a veritable amusement park of music. Besides the diversity of lineups, which included stars such as Elton John, John Mayer, Snow Patrol, Motörhead and Megadeth, the infrastructure, technology and management of The City of Rock provoked general admiration. That same year, Madrid had its second festival, with the participation of Miley Cyrus, Rage Against The Machine and Jane’s Addiction. A new attraction enchanted festivalgoers: the “dancing spring,” where the water danced to the rhythm of the music. A hotel with ten luxury suites was built smack in the middle of The City of Rock. Contests were held to select the guests. In Portugal, Rock in Rio even surpassed the World Cup in popularity. According to a German market research company, the event had 96 percent brand recognition, compared with 93 percent for the World Cup, which was being played at the same time in South Africa. In Spain, another surprise: a survey there revealed Rock in Rio was better known than Formula 1 racing, this in spite of the fact that Fernando Alonso, a Spaniard, was then the reigning two-time world champion. The numbers don’t lie: what had started as just a dream of Roberto Medina’s, had become one of the most powerful brands on the planet.
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Here to stay
Rock in Rio’s move to Europe aroused emotions in Brazilians ranging from nostalgia to anger. When organizers announced plans for the Lisbon and Madrid festivals, thousands of Brazilians flooded social network pages with heartfelt messages, many calling for its return, others accusing Medina of betrayal and a passion for money. The common thread, though, was a passion for the event, apparently unwavering even after a nearly tenyear absence. A careful response had to be crafted explaining that for several years the country’s economic conditions made a new festival in Brazil a difficult proposition. Everything had become extremely expensive, and contrary to Portugal and Spain, Brazil could not even offer a stable location where The City of Rock could be built without having to be demolished soon thereafter. The Brazilian economy picked up, and the fact that Rio de Janeiro won its bid to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games changed everything. The state and city of Rio de Janeiro began investing heavily in infrastructure and venues. Only minor adjustments were needed to transform one of these into the new The City of Rock. To the delight of many, after ten long years, Rock in Rio was reborn in the city where it had been created. The response was so great that sponsors rushed in, and all 600,000 tickets for the 2011 festival sold out in four days. Then came a good problem. Six months prior to the event, there were no more tickets to sell. What could be done until the gates were opened? Roberto Medina knew how to use the time well, further enhancing the brand and developing new social projects linked to the ideal of a better world. 2011 — the reunion The fourth Brazilian Rock in Rio, in 2011, was well worth the wait. It brought 350,000 tourists from every continent to the city and set social media aflutter. It touched 180 million Internet users in 200 countries, resulting in 4.5 million followers on social network pages — the highest numbers in history, surpassing the Glastonbury, Lollapalooza and Coachella festivals. The official Rock in Rio website had over 5 million unique visitors, it was one of Twitter’s trending topics in 13 countries and broke YouTube viewing records.
In The City of Rock, the crowds enjoyed nearly 100 hours of festivities over seven days. Many of the 160 acts were selected directly by the public. The band with the most votes in a poll on the official festival website was System of a Down, who played Brazil for the first time. Other standouts included Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Elton John. Rihanna and Shakira got the fans up on their feet. And no one can forget the charisma of Stevie Wonder — for many, the festival’s best performance. The Sunset Stage shook with Coldplay and the Brazilian band Sepultura, who shared the stage with Les Tambours du Bronx. Metallica shone like never before, and Katy Perry surprised the audience with an intriguing invitation: “They say Rio de Janeiro is the hottest city in the world. I’d like to try a Brazilian,” she teased. A male fan in the audience didn’t hesitate: he leapt onto the stage and received a kiss from the star for his efforts. A new feature in Brazil, to go alongside the amusement parks and the electronic music tent, which stayed open till the wee hours, was the launch of Rock Street, a replica of the streets of New Orleans. As soon as Medina saw the new grounds in Rio, he spotted a long narrow stretch of land where he visualized “the street of rock.” “I followed Disney’s example: I entered the world of dreams, the world of fantasies. When we created Rock Street we knew it would be a success. Now it’s the most beloved part of the event. So much so that it’s always packed. In fact, that [first experience] was so magical, that eventually it became mandatory. I took it to Portugal in 2012, and now it’s a fixture.” That festival occurred only months before Lisbon and Madrid. In Portugal, over 350,000 people attended in 2012. Linkin Park, Smashing Pumpkins and Bruce Springsteen were among the attractions. Street Dance was a totally new feature, a venue that featured many urban dance styles. “We exceeded all expectations in Lisbon [that year],” said Roberta Medina. “The people of that country were suffering through an unprecedented economic crisis, but they still came out in big numbers. That’s because, instead of downscaling the event, we added new attractions, so that the public, who had little money for leisure activities, chose Rock in Rio. Nobody expected us to sell as many tickets as we did.” Bruce Springsteen’s three-hour set on the festival’s last day was an audience favorite. He spoke in Portuguese almost the whole time. According to press reports, Portuguese festivalgoers left with their hope renewed that they’d manage to overcome their troubles. In spite of Europe’s economic woes, the third Spanish festival still brought 186,000 people to The City of Rock in four days. Still, attendance was not as good as in Lisbon. Two sources of revenue are needed for Rock in Rio: sponsors and ticket sales. The Madrid festival made more from ticket sales than from sponsors, and it was not enough to break even. Therefore, there was no Madrid festival in 2014.
“We managed to build a beautiful The City of Rock in Madrid, but unfortunately we needed to slow things down because of the enormous crisis in Spain, where 58 percent of young people are unemployed,” Roberto Medina explained. “Even so, our brand is still the most important one there, it is top of mind.” 2013 — sold out in four hours Roberto Medina was with his wife and youngest daughter at Disneyworld, when a Brazilian schoolteacher leading a tour approached him. She apologized for the interruption and confided something to him. “I’m from Rio. I gave up my vacation to make some extra money so I can buy two tickets for my daughters to Rock in Rio,” she said. Medina vowed that, in 2013, his team would work for that woman, who’d given up her vacation so her family wouldn’t miss the festival. “We need to work hard so things like sandwiches, sodas and transportation are affordable”. Medina told his team. “We have to keep this woman in mind, because going to a concert in a country like Brazil, where prices are high, is a real investment. You pay US $120 a ticket, but you still have to add transportation and expenses once you get to The City of Rock. We have to deliver something special for this lady.” Wanting to take the event to new heights, the team began preparing for the fifth Brazilian festival, scheduled for 2013. One objective was exceeding the value of media coverage obtained in 2011, which had been estimated at US $230 million, 96 percent positive. The challenge to improve did not end there. It extended to bands signed, art direction and engineering. Not to mention prices and the quality and speed of service provided. Success is typically the result of various factors. The team was given a preview of the demand for tickets on the night the Rock in Rio Card, a kind of voucher, was launched. It was like a scene out of a movie. Sales were scheduled to begin exactly one minute after midnight. Eight organizing team members were online, in their respective homes, anxiously waiting. What happened was incredible. Eighty thousand cards were sold in exactly 52 minutes. When it was over, Roberto Medina was hoarse. Still, he managed to yell at the top of his lungs, “In 2011, tickets sold out in four days. This year, we’re going to sell out in four hours!” By March 2013, an energetic marketing campaign was in full swing, with twelve spots on the air, new content and numerous activities geared toward creating a pre-festival buzz. Roberto Medina created the following promo: Facing a blackboard, a university professor explained to his students with complex equations how Rock in Rio tickets could sell out in an hour and a half. His explanation was so convincing that, once finished, he turned to the class, and the chairs were empty. The students had rushed out to
secure their tickets. By 10 pm on April 4, 2013, there were already 2.5 million people waiting on a virtual waiting list for the 400,000 tickets still left. This time, The City of Rock would set capacity at a level lower than in 2011. Medina had reduced the number of tickets to assure the festivalgoers’ greater mobility and comfort. “We were turning down 15,000 people a day, and I confess I was happy with that,” he said. “As far as I was concerned, I would have accepted even less, but they wouldn’t let me.” The policy was strictly adhered to: in four hours, the festival was totally sold out. And 2.2 million people kept trying. “With that kind of demand and the cap we established, we could’ve filled five or six The City of Rocks,” said Medina. The fifth Brazilian Rock in Rio was a resounding success. Inspired this time by the urban landscapes of the UK and Ireland, the Rock Street attraction proved to be an even greater draw. That year, the Rio festival debuted Street Dance, a replica of New York streets, where festivalgoers could see dancers performing styles from the ‘70s on and could even take to the stage themselves to participate in dance contests. The Sunset Stage established itself as the locale where great musical encounters occurred. “The concept of Sunset Stage is unique,” Medina emphasized. “The Main Stage is fantastic, but there are no surprises: everyone knows who will be playing, and what you’ll see. That’s not the case at Sunset. There’s mystery in the air, and sometimes you catch amazing things.” Rock in Rio 2013 was a winning project all around. Held in the pleasant month of September amid the beautiful Rio scenery, it brought together families and people of all ages, who walked cheerfully through the dream landscape built for their enjoyment. There were attractions for every taste, from Muse to Justin Timberlake, from Slayer to Alice in Chains, from John Mayer to Iron Maiden, not to mention David Guetta and some great talents of Brazilian music, such as Ivete Sangalo and the percussion group Olodum. There was even a real wedding, performed in front of the entire audience, which has Medina thinking of including a chapel in the next festival.
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Tomorrow began yesterday
While preparing for the tenth anniversary of Rock in Rio - Lisbon in 2014, Roberto Medina set a new mission for himself, perhaps the most challenging of his career: To celebrate another big date, the festival’s thirtyyear anniversary, he’d take the biggest music event in the world to the land of show business. “In 2015, we’ll take what is a giant step for any brand, we’ll enter the US market,” he said. Rock in Rio has already opened an office in New York, where Medina has an apartment. Everything will be coordinated from there, as the Rock in Rio team maintains an intense work schedule leading into May 2015, when the festival will officially open its doors in Las Vegas. Other locations were considered — a Rock in Rio in Poland, as well as a Chinese version. The lack of freedom of expression in the latter put that idea to rest. “Getting bands into China is complicated,” Medina added. “Some are actually banned from setting foot there, others simply refuse to go. It’s very complicated. But entering Asia is certainly possible, by way of Japan, which is a major consumer of music.” A festival in Argentina came very close to happening. However, three weeks before the organizing team was expected to arrive in Buenos Aires, the economic situation in that country became very difficult. “We’d already obtained corporate sponsors, we had an ideal venue, but we had to pull back. Argentina will have to come later. We’ve also received invitations from Mexico and Peru.” “We’ll be bringing a lot of new features to the US,” Medina said. “The United States is the vast entertainment storehouse of the world, but when I did some research on their market, I found that while they do very good work in sports marketing, when it comes to live music, strangely, Brazil is light years ahead.” For Medina, the explanation lies in history: “Two phenomena happened decades ago. In the US there was Woodstock. In Brazil, we had Rock in Rio. These are iconic events for the two nations, which occurred at different historical moments. Woodstock came during the hippie wave, while Rock in Rio came on the heels of the military dictatorship, with young people deciding to
exercise hard-won political freedoms to express their dreams, take to the streets and exercise their creativity. From this lens, we see that Woodstock was created for musicians; it was focused more on art and less on structure. It started as a party, it grew and grew, and eventually, they pieced it together.” According to Medina, the history of Rock in Rio is very different. “Our festival came into being during an extremely adverse moment in Brazil’s economy. While a ticket to Woodstock sold for over US $80 [in today’s money], Rock in Rio initially sold for a measly US $8. A project I’d imagined costing US $30 million ended up costing twice as much, because Brazil lacked the sound and light gear, the crews, even the venue. We needed to assemble everything with the help of our sponsors, their participation was vital.” “We needed to make sure our sponsors were comfortable with the security, traffic logistics and other variables. This was different from the US, where you could produce a festival based entirely on box office revenues.” “A culture was created in the United States of signing artists and then selling tickets,” Medina went on. “This is the economic formula in [the US]. In Rock in Rio, which was already born larger than any event in the world, not only with regards to lighting, space and stages, but also amount invested, we had to seek out corporate sponsors and to give them assurances. For this, we needed an event that couldn’t afford any hitches. We worry about logistics, traffic, convenience and offering a variety of attractions for festivalgoers who will remain 12 or 13 hours on location.” Rock in Rio — when considered in its entirety — is bigger and better than any festival that’s been produced in the United States. American producers tend to think about the stage and everything behind it, while the Brazilian team is also thoroughly concerned with what is in front of the stage: “When we have to install synthetic turf, we make sure not a single cable shows, for example,” Roberta Medina said. “When I design a city, we have to concern ourselves with features you won’t find anywhere else. So, I come to the United States hoping to contribute to their market, just like we did in Brazil, Portugal and Spain.” Roberto Medina has no doubt that the media will benefit greatly from the event: “Rock in Rio leverages US $52 million in Brazil. In the United States, a major event brings in about US $6 million. That is, we bring in almost ten times more money in an economy that’s 12 times smaller. Something’s wrong. You can say this is unique to the Brazilian economy. It’s not. In Portugal, a country in crisis, the event managed to bring in US $13 million dollars. The secret? The team that organizes Rock in Rio takes advantage of the whole atmosphere of joy, happiness and celebration surrounding the event and extends it over the six or seven months before the festival, generating expectations and unprecedented media coverage. “We’re coming in in a big way. No American festival will have such an impact. Just for beginners, we’re going to throw a major party in Times Square in 2014. It will mark the festival’s arrival in the US, the celebration of its 30th anniversary and the start of the countdown to the next Brazilian festival in September of 2015”.
It will feature three Rock Streets, whose themes will be Brazil, the UK and the US. They will combine jugglers, fire eaters and magicians with jazz musicians and street dancers, Irish stepdancing, as well as art, fashion and culinary exhibits. “Let’s take what’s most original in the music of these countries and present it to the public, backed by flawless production values. After all, it’s our ‘A Class’ standards that set this festival apart. The VIP area, for example, will look more like a six-star hotel.” The locale will accommodate 80,000 visitors per day over four days, and it will utilize a circular design that will facilitate the flow of crowds to the several attractions — all of this at a prime location on Las Vegas Boulevard, nearby the major casinos and resorts. The site will host a new festival every two years, just like in Rio and Lisbon. Holding the event in Las Vegas has a special place in Medina’s heart because it reminds him of the early years. “When I came back here, it immediately brought back memories of my investment in Sinatra. It was very exciting.” The ad man knows that 68 percent of visitors to Las Vegas come from Los Angeles. Therefore, most of the marketing efforts will be concentrated there, although, it will still be a national campaign. That’s why it’s called Rock in Rio - USA, and not Rock in Rio - Vegas. “There will always be a Las Vegas, but if the American market likes what we give them, we’ll do others in Miami and other [US] cities. What we won’t do is compromise: an entire City needs to be built for an event such as this. It’s not easy to enter a new market. It’s not, but I think the US can support two or three Rock in Rios.” Roberto Medina’s challenge now is to pave the way for the brand in the most important market on Earth. Above all, he dreams his festival will touch the souls of Americans, as was the case with other countries. What comes after the US? Medina always keeps a dream in his mind and heart, and he’ll wait for the right moment to make it come true. “After expanding Rock in Rio abroad, I want to make the festival into a global event which takes place at regular intervals on different continents and countries, like the World Cup. But I’ll fight nonstop to maintain a fundamental difference between us and sporting events. Rock in Rio will never be pure leisure, totally obsessed with itself. We’ll always have a close link to the social and environmental demands of the host nation and the planet as a whole. It’s a responsibility and a commitment I insist on assuming publicly.” Roberto considers the mobilization of people around a single event an excellent way to shake up people’s awareness. He gets excited at the prospect: “As soon as people stop grumbling about whatever it is that’s bothering them like high taxes, pollution, corruption or violence in the city, and take to the streets together to show that they
won’t tolerate the state of affairs anymore, everything can change … No, everything will change. We have to stop blaming the government. The fact is that there has to be new money to meet the essential needs of the people and the competence to use it. If there are not enough resources, then let society and their elected officials find them. If we don’t do this, government will have no authority to demand anything from us. We pay our taxes, which are not insignificant, and what we’ve had, for many years, all over, is a government without the authority to ask anything of us, because basically it does not offer the things that support the dignity of man. This is an absurd state of affairs, but it’s not the end of the world. The problem is people haven’t yet realized their own strength, they’ve not yet learned how to demand things in the right way. But, if I can help it, they will.” Medina took a deep breath and concluded: “A while back, I wrote an article for the El Pais newspaper, in Madrid, about the force that each of us carries inside to make our own destiny. I finished with a verse from Spanish poet Antonio Machado, which exactly captured my attitude toward life: ‘There is no path, the path is made by walking’.”
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One of Roberto Medina’s strongest traits is that he keeps moving forward. As rewarding as his victories have been, he keeps forging ahead, consolidating achievements and opening new paths. Surely, it is one of the reasons why he’s devoted himself to mentoring and motivating his children, from an early age, so they’ll develop the entrepreneurial spirit they’ve inherited from him. The two oldest, Rodolfo and Roberta, as children used to argue about who would be the future president of Artplan. Life quickly settled matters for them, as their father’s companies multiplied in numbers, and both were recruited into leadership roles, each according to their vocations and talents. Rodolfo is a born ad man, completely focused on succeeding in a business that is by nature very competitive. Promoted to the presidency of Artplan in 2007, he gave the company a boost that exceeded all expectations. Important new accounts were won, revenue has grown nonstop and creativity has remained high, resulting in numerous awards at home and abroad. Meanwhile, he is directly involved in the negotiations with sponsors for Rock in Rio, including in the United States. In spite of all of the success, he does not have plans to open Artplan agencies in other countries, at least not in the short run. He thinks Brazil is a huge market that’s only likely to grow in the future. And he has a clear goal to achieve by 2018: to make his agency the most sought after in Brazil, not only by clients, but also by the best talent in the market. Roberta’s career began in a surprising way. She was only seventeen and had accompanied her father on a visit to BarraShopping, the most important shopping center in Rio de Janeiro and an Artplan customer. At the time, the agency was running that highly successful campaign presenting daily shows imported directly from Orlando, featuring the most popular Disney characters. Before you knew it, Roberta had effortlessly joined the conversation her father was having with the mall’s director of marketing. At the first two Rock in Rio festivals, she was still small, however, she must have absorbed something from conversations she’d heard around the house, because the questions and comments she made so impressed the client that he invited her, right then and there, to work as part of the event’s support staff. Without so much as glancing at her father, Roberta agreed on the spot: “Who wouldn’t want to work with Mickey Mouse?” she asked. By the time Mickey’s show had closed, Roberta had herself a career. She proved herself to be an accomplished events coordinator and now lives in Portugal, where she oversees all of Rock in Rio operations. With the return of the Brazilian festival in 2011, she has lost count of how many times she’s crossed the Atlantic to work on both fronts. She’s a leader who possesses the resolve of a general and the skills of a diplomat. “Our business is too stressful as 105
it is for me to add even more pressure by the way I relate to people,” she said with a smile. “One of my proudest achievements has been to assemble, from scratch, an elite group comprised of people from all over the world, in the events industry, at least comparable to the best you’ll find in the United States and England.” Jomar Jr. — Rodolfo and Roberta’s brother — had been active on the production side since the second Brazilian festival and has also worked on brand activation. Today, he is director of productions at Dream Factory. He has a special talent for organizing major open-air events and was the coordinator of the latest Youth Day, which brought Pope Francis to Brazil, a country with the largest Catholic population in the world. Raíssa came much later and was born with strong opinions. In 2010, her father wanted to give his daughter, then 5 years old, a special gift. She loved to dance and was a die-hard Shakira fan. When the Colombian singer was performing in Portugal, Roberto took his daughter to see the singer’s rehearsal. Raíssa and Roberto were the only ones in the audience. They sat and watched the pop star’s every move for her upcoming show. When it was all over, Roberto asked his daughter if she’d liked it, thinking he’d hear exclamations of wonder. The answer was surprising: “More or less.” Stunned, he asked: “Why more or less?” “Dad, you need better stage lighting,” she said. He understood then and there that a new Roberta Medina was starting to find her destiny. The impression was confirmed at the conclusion of the Spanish festival that same year. Roberto was relaxing poolside with Raíssa. Almost to himself, he said he was thinking of producing a Rock in Rio on a smaller scale. The girl jumped up and shouted: “No!” “She told me that it wasn’t like me to do things on a small scale,” Medina recounted. “That I should listen to my heart. I gave up the idea and went back to being myself.” Roberto speaks with pride of his children, but he notes: “They’re doing very well, but they should be in no rush. I only intend to retire at 116, when Raíssa’s children have grown and taken their place in the family business. Who knows, maybe she’ll produce the first Rock in Rio on Mars?”
C hapter X V I I I
ROCK IN RIO â€˘ USA Las Vegas, May 2015
This chapter, you and Roberto Medina will write together.