Rebranding intermission.

Here’s my kooky thought of the day:

Get Twitter to sponsor intermissions.  Rename them “Twittermissions,” in order to encourage people to “tweet” about the shows they are seeing during the break, thereby spreading the word-of-mouth faster than ever.
Ok, so maybe Twitter isn’t going to pony up any cash for this bit of branding (only partly due to the fact that they’re not making any money), but there is something about the idea that we can apply without them.
The feelings that inspire passionate word of mouth about any event or product are strongest when the audience is experiencing the event, or immediately thereafter.
Ask yourself . . . When are you most likely to talk about a great book you’ve read?  I’d bet it’d be right after finishing the last chapter.  A movie?  While walking out the door, or even right after a climatic event during the movie, much to the chagrin of the people around you (“Oh my God, did you just see that!?!?”).  A meal?  When you’ve taken that first bite.
And what about a musical?  Right when that curtain comes down . . . at intermission or at the end.
Smokey Joe’s Cafe (in the mid/late 90s) was one of the first shows that I remember trying to take advantage of this post-ovation-energy by including show branded postcards in all of the Playbills and encouraging people to fill them out when the show was over.  If they did and then addressed them to a friend, the show would pick up the postage and mail them for free.
10 years later, the technology to spread that same message is the in the pockets of 9 out of 10 of adults.
It’s not our job to mail the postcards anymore.  It’s our job to point people to their pockets; to get them tweeting and texting  and “nexting” (which is my word for whatever is coming “next” in the social media pipeline . . . and guaranteed, there will be something).  And we need to do it while they are at the theater, before they even get out of their seats, if we can.
Why?  Because that’s when the desire to spread that a positive message is the strongest.
You know the other time the desire to spread a positive (or negative message) is strongest?  When an audience member, or potential audience member, sees an ad:

POTENTIAL AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Oh look, a poster for My First Time. I want to see that show.
FORMER AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I saw it last week!  It’s so funny. You should definitely go.

Successful, right?
Yep, without a doubt, and that’s what traditional media is for.
But ask yourself this . . . which method of spreading word of mouth is cheaper?
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Comments
  • Not a kooky idea at all! I had an exchange last month with folks in Chicago who were encouraging tweeting during shows. We had a long discussion about posting TWEET NOW before, intermission and after performances regularly. Great way to capitalize word of mouth!

  • Well, I always write a review after I see a show: either the day of, or the day after. Saturday night we saw Maritius at the Pasadena Playhouse, the review was posted on my Livejournal blog the next morning. You can see it at http://cahwyguy.livejournal.com/871258.html
    In my eyes, it helps publicize the theatre for those in my local area, and promotes the idea of going to the theatre for those that aren’t in the area.

  • Scott says:

    NO! NO! NO! Its hard enough to get them to turn their cell phones and other electronic equipment before the show and you want them to turn them ON again at intermission? Just what I need, someone clicking through the second act.

  • Jaki says:

    Done right, this would be great for audience members. Afterall, if they enjoyed your show, everyone should know. And if the show sucked, you should know that too so you can make it better.
    I am actually working on a project right now in which the Characters in the show are tweeting during their performance. Visit http://acanarytorsi.org to get the twitter links and to get the launch announcement.

  • NineDaves says:

    i recently did this very thing during intermission of a preview performance of 9 to 5. problem was, intermission came early, when the show had to stop due to “technical difficulties” after the first number. it was all downhill from there – stephanie j. block dropped out mid performance, replaced by her understudy for act II. lines were flubbed. entrances late. orchestrations off. it was a mess. and i tweeted the whole time through. not the best review – but it is previews. problem is, with only 140 characters, it’s hard to let people know that it is previews in each tweet. and while i gained a few followers during my tweets, i’m sure 9 to 5 didn’t gain any new business.

  • Ken –
    Great post, even if some disagree on the details, everyone should note the logic here.
    We’ve been working with some brilliant marketing folks, who suggested we ditch the traditional pre-show curtain speech (we were very thankful) and do it post-show. So, at the end of each show, after a bow, the music fades a bit, and the actors read a quick list of “3 Things You Can Do to Help Available Light”. Facebook & Twitter are both on that list, as well as reminders of talkbacks and our quick surveys.
    Then, the survey asks people to describe the show as if in a text message. That also gets people thinking about how to describe it to friends.
    All in all, these efforts have really upped our word of mouth. If you search Twitter for “Available Light Theatre” or “Dirty Math” (quotation marks included) you’ll see that it’s working.

  • Jill says:

    I often Twitter pre-curtain and during intermission. I actually got yelled at by an usher recently for having my phone on at intermission. She told me it’s against NYC law for anyone to have a cell phone on in a theater …
    Which brings me to a suggestion for a future blog topic: customer service at Broadway houses. There are plenty of really lovely house staff members, but I can tell you I’ve encountered a lot of rude ushers, ticket takers and recently a house manager. I totally understand that trying to herd large groups of people in a large space requires assertiveness, but I think a lot of time their behavior is flat-out rude. Some people are paying in excess of a hundred dollars to see the show (and sit with no leg room and wait in line for a bathroom that has about 25 too few stalls). For a lot of folks, a visit to a Broadway theatre might be there first experience with the Great White Way — and in some cases, their first professional theatrical experience, period. It seems that being treated pleasantly could only help the industry …
    Thanks for your great posts.

  • Jill says:

    um, that should be their, not there. D’oh.

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