City

The Story Behind The Glass Beach Study

Author’s note: The following is excerpted from court filings, freedom of information documents, interviews, and other public records reviewed by the author as part of his research into an upcoming book about corruption.

The Glass Beach Study was commissioned by the City of El Paso in early 2006 as the city’s recently hired city manager, Joyce Wilson, embarked upon a new branding scheme for El Paso to defend it from the negative imaging it was experiencing, according to her. The City paid Glass Beach Marketing about $100,000 to study how El Paso was being marketed and to create a new strategy. Glass Beach Marketing was a subcontractor for Sanders/Wingo, the city’s prime contractor for SMG, the company managing the El Paso Convention Center at the time. Why Sanders/Wingo used Glass Beach Marketing as a subcontractor and how the newly formed company was connected to the advertising agency has caused much controversy, in addition to the study itself.

Details about Glass Beach Marketing remain murky. The company does not seem to have existed prior to the study being commissioned and does not seem to have done any business beyond the infamous study. Where the company was formed and its legal status remains unknown. A city official told the author that they had been informed that the company was based in California. When asked if they knew the company was connected to Sanders/Wingo, the official said they were not told that.

Antonio Patric Buchanan was the face of the company. According to Buchanan’s LinkedIn profile accessed on July 29, 2020, he has been the Co-CEO and Chief Strategic Officer for Antonio & Paris since May 2017. Although his LinkedIn profile lists activities from 1986 through the present, there is an obvious gap between 2003 and 2012.

However, Antonio Patric Buchanan was also the Chief Marketing Officer for Sanders/Wingo Advertising, Inc., according to an employee of the firm. A 2009 marketing magazine also listed Buchanan as an officer of the advertising firm. Buchannan started working for Sanders/Wingo sometime in 2004.

Buchanan’s wife, Paris Buchanan, was also working at Sanders/Wingo as the Planning Director between March 2002 and May 2005. Her maiden name is McDonnal and she is now a partner in Antonio & Paris.

The information about the existence of the company is from the domain registration record for its website: glass-beach.com. The domain name was registered on May 4, 2004. The company’s name was listed as Glass Beach Marketing with an office at an address in Paris, France.

The French address, 15 Avenue Montaigne, is a commercial building with a theater, restaurants and a theater school. The area is known for high-end clothing stores. It remains unknown if Glass Beach Marketing was ever established in France and whether it had an office there at any time. However, it should be noted that Buchanan’s wife, who was also working at Sanders/Wingo, when the study was produced, is named Paris.

Domain name registrars generally do not verify the physical address provided by the registrant. The email address for the domain name, which is the contact information used by the registrar to manage the domain name, was an email provided by a free provider.

On March 3, 2006, about 40 El Pasoans received a request asking them about their perception of El Paso. The information that was gathered was collected into an “immersion audit” that was to form the basis of an upcoming study.

A few weeks later, the Glass Beach Study was presented to the city council. As part of the presentation, a Powerpoint slide show was used. The 129-slide presentation was titled, City of El Paso, Research Findings.

It is assumed that the “research findings” were the result of the immersion audit.

The presentation was to “develop a comprehensive branding and messaging platform,” according to slide number two. Slide number six of the presentation states that 37 “key executives, managers and city partners” were used to identify the “El Paso brand”.

A second presentation by Glass Beach Marketing was released on July 19, 2006. This presentation was titled, City of El Paso Integrated Communications Strategy. It contains 58 slides. The presentation provided a roadmap to implementing the marketing plan outlined in the previous slide presentation.

With the damage done, the Glass Beach Study controversy overtakes the scheme.

The damage to the community had been done. The research findings identified the personality of El Paso as an “old cowboy, male, 50-60 years old, gritty, dirty, lazy” who spoke Spanish and was “uneducated”. The slide was accompanied by a picture of an elderly Mexican man.

Slides 11 & 12 of the Glass Beach Study

In contrast, the Glass Beach Study proponents argued that El Paso should be “new west, male/female, 30-40 years old, educated, entrepreneurial, bi-lingual [sic]” who enjoy entertainment and has a family.

This slide was accompanied by pictures of Mathew McConaughey and Penélope Cruz.

As if that wasn’t enough, the study identified El Paso as an “old,” “dirty” truck instead of what it could be, a “new,” “reliable” Infinity SUV.

Slides 14 & 15 of the Glass Beach Study

Soon after, Glass Beach Marketing ceased to exist. Its website was taken down and further efforts to locate the company’s records were unsuccessful. The Buchanan’s married and are now working in California. Other than the wife’s name – Paris – no other nexus to France has been identified.

Sanders/Wingo and Buchanan have refused to answer questions regarding the Glass Beach Study and its origins. However, an individual with knowledge of the events has acknowledged that Sanders/Wingo was directly involved with the Glass Beach Study. The individual has asked to remain anonymous because of the controversy related to the project.

A copy of the Glass Beach Study is available for download at this link.

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