How To “Sell Dreams” by four of Broadway’s best.

The American Theatre Wing is one of the most resourceful institutions that no one knows anything about.  Yeah, they created The Tony Award, but they didn’t stop there. They do a whole bunch of stuff including handling an industry-wide internship/networking program, supervising the Jonathan Larson Grants, and producing one of the greatest hidden treasures for people looking to pursue a career in the theater:  the Working In The Theatre video series.

There’s a Working In The Theatre discussion on just about everything, from theatrical design to cast albums.  There’s even one about Off-Broadway hidden deep in the vaults that includes a spirited conversation between me and some other Off-Bway folks.

But none of them compare to the most recent panel about . . . you guessed it . . . marketing.

ATW put four of the best pitch people on Broadway in the same room and grilled them on what it takes to sell a show.

Tune in to hear the esteemed John Barlow (John Barlow), Damian Bazadona (Situation Interactive), Nancy Coyne (Serino Coyne), and Drew Hodges (Spotco) talk about how they design a campaign, what they say to clients when they don’t like their shows, and yes, why marketing Broadway is like “selling dreams.”

Oh, and you’ll also hear one of my favorite new phrases, “It’s like buying a Big Mac in Berlin.”

Thanks ATW, and thanks to the four participants and their moderator, (Variety reporter Gordon Cox) for putting it all out there.

Click here to watch.

After you’re done, come back to the blog, and tell everyone what you agreed with . . . and what you didn’t.

At the Broadway League Conference: Day 1/The Emotion of Broadway

Too often, as Producers, we focus on the flaws of marketing Broadway.  (Frankly, too often, as People, we focus on the flaws of everything!)

So this story from Sandy Block, Chief Creative Officer of Super Power Serino Coyne on the first day of the Broadway League conference, was a rare positive look at our assets, instead of our liabilities.

Once upon a time, while Sandy was teaching a marketing class at NYU, a student asked why, with the challenges of Broadway’s limited distribution channels, its high prices, the strangling costs of the NY Times, we even bothered trying to advertise The Fabulous Invalid.

Sandy stopped the class and, like all smart marketers do, did some testing and took a survey.

He asked the class to raise their hands if they remembered the first movie they ever saw.

A few hands were raised.

Then he asked the class to raise their hands if they remembered the first Broadway show they ever saw.

ALL of the hands went up.

There’s a highly emotional experience connected with Broadway; a passion that can be turned into profit . . . and that was the subject of today’s session speech by Alan Zorfas of BrandIformatics, a company that measures the emotion connected to industries and companies.

So thanks to Sandy and companies like BI, we know that Broadway is highly emotional.

Now the real question is, how can we capitalize on that?

Let’s all take Sandy’s poll:

Can you remember your first movie and your first show without spending too much time thinking about it?

Tell us below.

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Speaking of Broadway being emotional, click here to hear Patti Lupone get all emo on a unofficial photographer during her final performance of Gypsy.

If she got this mad at the photographer, imagine what she said when she found out the whole show was recorded by someone else . . . and put on YouTube!

Advice from an expert: Vol. V. Let’s search together

One on the industry’s up-and-coming marketers, Leslie Barrett, joins us today.  Leslie is on loan from her position as the Director of Integrated Marketing at one of our industry’s heavyweight advertising agencies.  As the Dir. of Integrated Marketing, Leslie insures that marketing and advertising campaigns are working well together.

Leslie and I recently got into a conversation about exactly that, “working well together”, and she shared an idea with me on how to combat one of the our biggest online marketing challenges: how do we compete with ticket brokers who can spend a lot more money on online advertising, most specifically Adwords.

Here’s Leslie’s expert opinion:

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Search has become such an important part of our everyday lives, it’s hard to imagine what we did before the world’s information was available at our fingertips.

So, I’ve been tossing around the idea of cooperative search, where all Broadway shows would bid on the generic terms as a group, ultimately sending the customer to a page that lists every Broadway show (and off-Broadway for that matter) with face-value ticket prices.  But I did some rough math, and it just seems too expensive ($3K – $5K per show per week).

Since the secondary market is so highly motivated to sell our tickets (mainly through search), why can’t we make a deal, or several deals?  The secondary market is a multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s here to stay.  Let’s figure out how to partner with these companies, keep our customers happy, and share in some of this revenue.

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Leslie’s on to something here.  I like her co-oped search idea, and would go further as to distribute the cost of the program based on its results.  Give each show in the program a specific code, and charge the shows that sell the most tickets the bulk of the costs of the program, thereby distributing the costs more fairly.

But Leslie’s most radical idea is the one we all have to remember.  Reaching across the aisle takes courage, but sometimes our biggest enemies can be our biggest allies.  Godfather fans will remember that Don Corleone brought all the members of the five families together to talk first.

Then, his son killed them all.