The two big Os in marketing.

My two favorite forms of media to buy in today’s theatrical market are . . .

Online

and

Outdoor.

The problem with that second O, is that it’s expensiv-o in the heart of the city, where all those potential theatergoers swarm.  Seems a bit unfair that we have to pay the same price for those big billboards as Tide or Levi’s, which are available to the purchaser all over the world, as o-pposed to Broadway, which is available . . . well . . . only on Broadway.

That’s why I couldn’t help but wonder why more of us don’t try to make deals on available outdoor opportunities like the one in this picture.

What about approaching the real estate companies and asking for signage in unrented storefronts?  They’re sitting there, making no money for someone . . . why not give them some earning potential in the meantime?

Or what about mural billboards on available brick walls?

Or instead of leaving the signage of closed shows up on theater marquees, putting signage up for other shows in the same theater chain?

The best Producers I know don’t just buy whatever their agency or media company is selling.  The best Producers I know look for something that people haven’t thought of yet.

The best Producers I know look for the third “O” of marketing . . . new Opportunities.

Go where others haven’t gone before.  Consider yourself an explorer, like Magellan or Ponce de Leon.

Because when you do discover some New World of Media, or new anything for that matter, it’ll feel . . . well . . . (cough, cough) . . . O-tastic.

Harry Potter and The Elusive Sponsor.

Getting a sponsor for a Broadway show seems like the stuff of fantasy. At every early ad meeting for a show that I’ve worked on, someone usually pipes up that we should find a sponsor to pay for some major expense, and trade away their name in our media, tickets, etc.

It’s always a great idea, and everyone around the table usually nods their head, yes.  Because in theory it makes perfect sense. Broadway shows are a highly visible, high-class product, and other big brands would definitely benefit from associating their wares with ours.

So why is it so rare?

Why, to give you a specific example, did not one of the 15 Marketing Directors for big brands fail to even return my call when I reached out to them with a very unique Broadway branding opportunity?

Here are a few of the excuses I’ve heard over the years from potential sponsors:

  • “It’s hard to associate ourselves with a product, before seeing the product.”
    • Brands don’t like to put their money or their name on something until it has already been introduced to the public.  It makes sense. If a show isn’t well received, does that feeling transfer to the brand? Besides, if a show gets out of the gate and is a hit, we usually don’t need the sponsor.
  • “There are not enough eyeballs.”
    • Even the most sold-out musicals can’t put more than 16,000 bodies (or 32,000 eyeballs) in the seats every week.  A lot of the live event sponsors like to sponsor one-time events that have 20,000 people plus in one night (think concerts, sporting events, etc.) PLUS millions on television.  Thems a lot of eyeballs!
  • “You may close tomorrow.  Then what?”
    • Since we can’t guarantee the length of the run, it’s hard for them to quantify the exposure of their brand.  And at the big brand level, it’s all about dollars and guaranteed impressions.
  • “I can’t advertise in the theater.”
    • Current contractual relationships between most theaters and Playbill, or their program provider, prevent the advertising of other commercial products inside the venue.  No signage, no manned or womanned display booths getting our customers to sign up for services, etc.
  • “It’ll take me too long to get this approved.”
    • Big businesses plan their quarters, their years, and sometimes their decades of underwriting in advance.  Often shows approach potential sponsors just a few months before opening, and at that point, discretionary underwriting funding is gone.

So what are we to do?  Is sponsorship an impossibility?

No.  Of course not.  We’ve got to come up with answers to these “my dog ate my homework” excuses, because there are work-arounds for everything . . . if we’re all willing to do the work.

– Want to know what the product is before you sponsor it?  Try a revival.  Or do you want to come to a reading?

– Not enough eyeballs?  The average Broadway musical probably spends $5 mill a year in paid media.  Get on some of that.  Or try a tour.  And we’ll start working on new media options for you.

– We may close tomorrow?  Put up less money if the risk is greater, but don’t stay on the sidelines.  Or find a show specialist that can tell you what shows have a potential of going down quick and which don’t (we all know, don’t we?).

– You can’t advertise in the theater?  The shows have more ways to reach our customers than ever before, so we can get to them (or start lobbying the theater owners).

– Too long to get approved?  We’ll start coming to you earlier.  We promise.

Everyone wonders why CBS continues to broadcast the Tony Awards every year despite disappointing ratings.  From what I hear, it’s because of the type of viewer that tunes in.  Tony Award watchers and theatergoers are highly educated and usually high-income individuals (Now it makes sense why Lexus, Cadillac, etc. advertise during the telecast, doesn’t it?).  And while there may not be a lot of them watching, they can afford big-ticket items.

Our audiences have significant value to corporations of all shapes and sizes.  We just have to do better at communicating our value, and finding more value for them.

Like Harry P himself, we’ve got to find a way to put them under our spell.

I’m going to cut this post short now, because I’ve got 15 corporations to follow-up with.

Could destination advertising work?

I was at the airport in Burbank, CA a few weeks ago (which is the best kept secret in airline travel to LA, by the way), and on my walk towards baggage claim, I noticed a lot of advertisements for . . .  Las Vegas.

Burbank airport must get a lot of travelers to Sin City, I thought, to justify ad after ad for the hotels, shows and restaurants of this vacation destination.

Since 65% of the Broadway audience depends on tourists visiting New York, could Broadway shows be helped by identifying the key states that send us the most traffic (California, Texas, Illinois) and advertising locally? Could we attempt to get a customer closer to a purchase decision before they get to the city (and before they face a lot more of our competition’s ads)?  And because these locations are outside of NYC, wouldn’t the media actually cost us less?

Shows have been advertising in in-flight magazines for years, and at the NY airports as well.  But as the NY market gets more and more cluttered with shows competing for the short-term attention of the customer, perhaps it’s time to try and get to them earlier.

Whether taking ads in or near airports in other cities would work totally depends on the cost of the media in those locations.  Without a doubt, you’re not going to be visible to as many potential customers as a billboard in NY, so the ad is less valuable . . . but with the amount of inventory available all over the country, perhaps there are deals to be made.

Or perhaps this shouldn’t be a specific show-driven campaign . . . perhaps it should be a Broadway campaign, with the goal of making sure that every person that gets on a plane, train or automobile on their way to NY takes in a show or two or three, during their stay.

To ensure our survival, we have to make sure Broadway is at the top of our customers’ minds.  Getting to them before our competitors do gives us a head start.

 

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