Project Information



Escalating media fragmentation was eroding CNN’s audience. Seeking to rebuild its credentials as a premier news outlet during the 2008 national party conventions, CNN aimed to reclaim relevance among pundits, politicians, and the politically passionate. We worked with Civic Entertainment to help solve the problem.


Our strategy, “Share a beer and your politics,” found inspiration in the sports metaphor that pervades politics. Parties have mascots and team colors. Words like “race,” “contest,” “game plan” and “dark horse” fill the debate. But one sports element was absent from politics: Only sports fans had sports bars. We believed political fans quietly yearned for their own version.


In August 2008, The CNN Grill − the world’s first politics bar − opened for business. One in St. Paul. One in Denver. Both across the street from each party’s convention halls. Part broadcast studio and part pop-up restaurant the Grill was designed to elicit democratic debate. We asked readers: “what does politics mean to you?” And painted many of their responses on the Grill’s exterior – literally wrapping the building in America’s voice. Against the backdrop of the conventions, CNN’s political bar stood out as an open forum celebrating the politics of everyone.


The Washington Post referred to The Grill as “the real hub of political activity” at the conventions and claimed, “The CNN Grill brings all the bloggers to its bar.” Advertising Age applauded, “We need year-round CNN Grills.” Originally conceived as a pop up event, the CNN Grill is now an equity for the brand, appearing every election season and events such as SXSW. The experience also won a Jay Chiat Gold for Brand Experience and a Communication Arts Selection.

Partner Credits: Civic Entertainment Group


  • Kevin Brainard
  • John Fullbrook
  • Timothy Goodman
  • Lee Maschmeyer
  • Brian Collins