Having now been involved with nearly a dozen productions both on Broadway and on tour I'd like to share some lessons I have learned about marketing and advertising a production.
- Don't be shy. Once your production is open, have your ad/marketing campaign strategies in place and ready for implementation. And when you do get the word out, make a coordinated cross media strategy.
- Be everywhere possible at once. While we don't have the necessary budgets in the theater business to get tremendous frequency in our advertising campaigns, we do have the capacity to make a strong impression on our audience. You need to coordinate your campaigns to take full advantage the great variety of relatively inexpensive advertising available, specifically targeted banner ad placement on the internet, radio advertising, cultivation of bloggers and advocates to spread word of mouth and the use of promotional video to generate interest in the production.
- Saving money is always good but spending money well is better. Spending money well means spending your budget on tested and proven ticket selling methods, email blasts to strong selling lists, trackable ads with promotional codes, proven street teams, direct mail campaigns to the best lists available and making value-ad promotional deals for ticket purchases (essentially discounts but are disguised with give-ways or bonuses for purchases made).
- Brand your production with the message you want audiences to receive, not merely with the best quotes from your reviews. Too often, we rely on quotes to define our productions. Instead, I believe we should try to control the conversation (as best we can). That requires defining what identity our production should have and then coordinating that message across our ad/marketing platform.
- Be creative but stick to what is known to be effective. I often sit through ad meetings where producers want to do something 'out-of-the-box' and 'creative' with our ad campaigns. I am all for being 'creative' but not at the expense of what is proven to work. I like to draw on past performance and data to back up decision-making in business. So using a creative/out-of-the-box concept behind an ad is great, especially when you are doing branding advertisements. In the theater business our budgets don't allow us to brand well because we just can't get enough frequency with our ads to have any impact on our potential audience. However, when a show has been defined as a hit, i.e. Wicked, Phantom, Mamma Mia, they can use simple logos and branding campaigns to generate interest because they are already well-known productions. For new shows, branding is futile, so you need to concentrate on letting your audience know why they should buy tickets to your show.