A first click is like a first date.

I’ve been watching a lot of banner advertising for shows lately, especially on news sites like Playbill (as opposed to shopping sites, like Broadway.com).  And, of course, the most common call-to-action on those 468 x 60s is “Buy Tickets” or “Get Tickets”, and so forth.

And that may be just fine and dandy for shows that are in the middle of their marketing life cycle, when the odds are high that the viewer has seen a good chunk of impressions before viewing that online print ad we call banners.

But what about shows during their launch phase?

Think about it . . . what would you do?

You’re online, reading an article about something fun that a new show is doing, and up pops an ad for a new play.  It’s a play that you’ve never heard of before, a play by someone you’ve never heard of before, and maybe it stars someone you’ve kind of heard of before.

Would you buy a $130+ ticket with one click?

Let me put it in a PG-13 kind-of-way . . .

Would you sleep with someone on the first date that you were only kind of attracted to?

Do we really expect our customers to commit over $100 AND 3-4 hours of their lives (commuting time counts).  Remember, getting someone to buy a theater ticket is a lot different than getting someone to buy, oh, a pair of pants, because it involves a cash investment and a time investment, which is probably 3x as valuable as the money to a lot of folks.

Yet knowing that this conversion is such a long shot for most shows, we go for it anyway, like a stupid frat boy who thinks he’s going to get lucky just by telling people how much he can bench.

Why don’t we try dating our customers first?

Why not use your banners to get them to sign up to your email list, so you can drip marketing messages to them and get them to buy later?  Why not use banners to get them to click-thru to exclusive content that can give them a richer understanding of the experience they’ll get at your show, so they’ll be more inclined to buy later?  Why not use your banners to play a game with them?

What banners do you click?

No advertising should ever exist without a call to action.  But if the odds of you getting action on your first click are so low, then why not try a different strategy instead.

Because if you don’t, that’s when you’ll really be f#$*ed.


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)



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  • Lisa V. says:

    What’s mildly funny about this article is that I read through it, thought, “good idea, makes a lot of sense,” and then went to playbill.com and promptly saw a huge banner ad for “Godspell” asking me to click for tickets. Funny, though to be fair “Godspell” probably is one of those shows in the middle of its maketing life cycle.

    • Kristopher Weaver says:

      Well, to be fair, he’s hypothesizing about what could be a good idea… I bet we’ll see him enact this idea soon enough. 🙂

  • This is an interesting question Ken. It’s one thing if you’re a savvy person who recognizes the show in the banner ad, but the average person has to be drawn in. Purchasing and investing time as you mentioned is the acid test. But, as a POV, the banner ad is most useful if it first draws them so they learn about the show. It may be as you said, and the viewer knows zilch. But, if the key art is doing it’s job, there is a good chance the viewer will click. Most banner ads are a good buy, so chances are if a sale is going to be made, it’s after they see the same ad 2-3 times, and they’ve decided they’ll risk it. Early launch or mid-campaign, this depends on various production factors. Perhaps its a limited engagement, star is on board for 12 weeks only. Suddenly mid-marketing is post-opening. I had a good experience last year, where we put every pr dollar into online marketing, ramped up with beguiling banner ad weeks before a SINGLE night event, and got a record 7MM clicks, and Bravo! from google analytics for the focus and turnout as far as clicks. It tells you that your outreach drew them to your site…that’s a start. It’s all so new! Ask film execs that can’t figure out how to turn the clicks into sales. No one has yet. Your work will determine a lot. Godspell has a great presence. Please follow this blog up with real numbers when you have the data. And thanks for doing it. Cheers.

  • John says:

    Great advice. Kinda like “At least buy me a drink before you ____ me.”

  • Sue says:

    I don’t click on banner ads. I don’t want to be accosted by cookie-driven ads for the next 100 years. I go to the website later if I’m interested. And why do I get banner ads for items I just bought? Like I need two pair of the same shoes?

    That being said, you can always return a pair of pants — often free shipping both ways.

    Buying theater tickets is more like booking a vacation. You hear about it, you research it a bit, you talk to your friends, you double- and triple-check the dates, then perhaps you book it.

  • I do click on banner ads, but don’t necessarily buy. But I DO buy from emails that I get with discounted tickets, as well as some sites that specialize in discounted tickets. Must say when Leap of Faith had a day where all tickets were $29.00 I bought my orchestra seat for $29.00, and it was the best $29.00 I had spent in a long time.

  • John says:

    Ken, I never click banner ads.

    But I think Broadway is missing a huge marketing opportunity in the hotel rooms where just about everyone is staying. We stayed at the Hilton Doubletree and the video channel of broadway shows was so outdated, and the quality of the video was poor, that is really when most people are making the decision about what show to see that night, when they are sitting in the hotel, waiting to go to the TKTS window. That seems to be the crucial time to be wooing the potential customer.

    There should be an up top date video channel of current broadway shows…..

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