As the leaves begin to fall and the season changes, Broadway shows brace for the traditionally weak fall ticket buying season. Typically, shows see a boost in sales throughout the summer, with a dip in the fall, and another boost through the holiday season before sales once again slow down as the winter months of the New Year begin.
Traditionally, a marketing campaign for a Broadway or Off-Broadway production will focus on enticing buyers through a combination of print, television, internet, and in-person advertising.
“Typically all advertising and marketing strategies will work together to enforce a message for the show, for example we will run a 360-degree marketing campaign which will include some aspect of all of the following: print ads (newspaper/magazine), television or radio, web banners, email blasts, and outdoor,” Amanda Pekoe, President of the theatrical marketing firm The Pekoe Group, told TicketNews.
However, when the traditional low season of ticket sales is coupled with a sluggish economy, Broadway and Off-Broadway productions must go to extra lengths to drum up sales. Recently, “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert,” which has seen a drop in ticket sales as the summer months have come to a close, announced that the show would be implementing a money back guarantee for all group sales.
Also looking to boost their group sales, “Billy Elliot,” the 2009 Tony Award Winner for Best Musical, will be enacting creative changes to the show. Among the changes will be toning down the show’s profanity in an effort to appeal to school groups.
“Sister Act,” a musical based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg film, will be implementing a more traditional marketing campaign. The show’s producer recently told the New York Times the production will be rolling out a new commercial this October in hopes of appealing to group sales. No word on whether that commercial will include Goldberg, who is a producer of the show’s Broadway run, and who appeared briefly in the musical when it was running in London.
“Priscilla: Queen of the Desert” is also looking to their star-powered production team to aid in their marketing campaign. The show is currently running an ad featuring Bette Midler, who is one of the musical’s producers.
But there are still additional marketing options available to productions when they do not have star power at their disposal. For instance, The Pekoe Group, who market for several Broadway and Off-Broadway productions including “Rock of Ages,” look to the internet for creative marketing solutions. “We advertise heavily through search engine marketing, including Google Adwords, and also have offered tickets and special packages through several of the impulse-buying Web sites, including Groupon and LivingSocial,” said Pekoe.
Ultimately though, the best marketing tool for Broadway productions is good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth has been credited with maintaining the immense success of “Wicked,” which still routinely sells out despite being in its eighth year on Broadway.
Word-of-mouth coupled with stellar reviews have also made “Book of Mormon” the hottest show on Broadway, with tickets sold out for nearly a year at Telecharge.com and tickets selling for over $700 a piece on secondary ticketing sites. The economic downturn may have forced Broadway to look at new forms of marketing, but a show often still lives or dies on the basics.