Broadway Marketing and Advertising Agencies in NYC Adopt Different Marketing Strategies to Market Broadway Shows

With up to 40 very different Broadway shows playing at any one time on the Great White Way in New York City, Broadway shows must actively market themselves to ensure new or continued success. Marketing campaigns begin very early in the process (sometimes as the Broadway-bound show is still being written) and often include a full-scale advertising assault that includes Print, Environmental, Web, Radio, TV, and Direct Mail ads. These measures are necessary because, at the end of the day, the success or failure of a Broadway show will depend wholly on how many tickets are sold. Critical accolades can also help with sustaining a Broadway musical or play, but there have been many times when the Tony Awards have been given to shows that have long since closed on Broadway, coming just too late to rescue them. It's like a movie winning an Oscar when it's already on DVD. So it is up to the Broadway marketers to generate buzz about a show as early as possible, and to keep the public aware of that show through its Broadway life.

With so many Broadway shows on offer, it's surprising that there are only three main Broadway marketing companies in New York City who specialize in Broadway advertising. These companies are Serino Coyne, SpotCo and Eliran Murphy Group (EMG). Each company is able to provide a full service of marketing solutions, but more often than not a producer will choose different parts of each agency to provide a holistic approach to their Broadway marketing campaign. Understandably, the Broadway producer is looking to get the best bang-for-the-marketing-buck and looks to the Broadway marketing agency to direct the monies to the most efficient and best performing solutions. Usually, one Broadway advertising agency is chosen as the lead and they will engage services from the other agencies, a copacetic arrangement that has been in place on Broadway for many years. The lead agency will also utilize services from other smaller Broadway marketing companies and niche service providers in order to establish their client's marketing strategy and ensure that full market penetration is achieved.

Serino Coyne - Broadway Advertising and Marketing Firm

Founded in 1977 but didn't start racking up Broadway clients until the late '80s, Serino Coyne is the biggest full service advertising and marketing agency on Broadway. In addition to its New York office, Serino Coyne has branches in L.A., San Francisco, and Las Vegas, helping performing arts institutions around the country with their marketing needs. Since its purchase in 2003 by Omnicom Group, Serino Coyne is no longer an independent organization - its philosophy is, however, to continue to act like one. Clearly a staid and bureaucratic environment does not provide its creative clients the necessary support and Serino Coyne has ensured that they stay close to their independent goals while having the financial support and infrastructure of a large corporation. Serino Coyne tends to land the blockbuster shows like Wicked, Spamalot, and Mamma Mia. CEO Nancy Coyne is credited for developing the "Disney On Broadway" campaign, which has helped establish Disney's place on the Great White Way.

SpotCo - Broadway Advertising and Marketing Firm

A medium-sized Broadway marketing company that is renowned for its fresh, smart, and handsomely-designed campaigns. Clients include Avenue Q, Rent, and Chicago, all of which SpotCo created groundbreaking ad campaigns for. The company, masterminded by Drew Hodges, began as the design studio Spot Design, which serviced entertainment heavies like MTV and Sony but had never touched Broadway until hired to do Rent's Broadway marketing in 1996. After creating the memorable photo montage design for that youth-oriented Broadway phenomenon, Spot Design became SpotCo and went on to handle the striking and sexy black-and-white Chicagocampaign. SpotCo campaigns are currently appearing worldwide from Las Vegas to London, Melbourne to Moscow. Their shows have been honored with four Pulitzer Prizes, two Tony Awards® for Best Musical and six Tony Awards for Best Play.

Eliran Murphy Group - Broadway Advertising and Marketing Firm

The smallest of the three Broadway advertising companies. Eliran Murphy Group is a New York-based advertising agency that specializes in arts and entertainment, EMG's biggest client is the Roundabout Theatre Company, which does several productions each Broadway season. EMG also frequently handles smaller Broadway musicals, plays, and limited run shows.

Potential for a Tripoly and Collusion

Naturally there is some concern in the Broadway community that it's not good having only a small number of marketing agencies handle all the Broadway advertising. These Broadway shows are competing for audiences, so isn't there a conflict of interest? But the Broadway marketers insist that that would be like choosing which child they loved best. They contend that they make every effort to give equal attention to each property they represent, working to demonstrate in the advertising what makes each individual Broadway show different and unique.

Each marketing solution provides different value to achieve the overall marketing strategy. The Broadway producer has taken the time to understand what demographic will fill the seats and wants to use the marketing dollars most effectively in those areas. But the Broadway producer can often get it wrong and market to the wrong audience or market in the wrong way. That is why it's important that the Broadway marketing agency really understands its job, and understands the show it is representing, so that it can wisely use the advertising to inform potential audiences of what to expect. It does no good to create a campaign that sets up false expectations -- that only disappoints or angers the audience. And creating a beautiful campaign that doesn't actually sell tickets only disappoints and angers the producer!

Traditional Broadway Marketing Strategies

Some established marketing solutions like printed magazines, newspapers, and radio spots tout that they may not actually sell many tickets, but they will establish the brand in people's minds. However, research has shown that as people are bombarded with so much advertising nowadays, little of this traditional approach sticks. In fact, when the League of American Theatres and Producers (now called The Broadway League) made a big move to establish Broadway as a brand with their Live Broadway campaign, many Broadway marketers resisted the approach, preferring to concentrate on selling each show as an individual product. It has become clear that the marketing pitch needs to be immediate and compelling -- if you don't grab them at the "elevator pitch" opportunity, the chances are that you won't grab them at all. And Broadway marketing agencies have found that newer forms of marketing for Broadway shows, such as direct mail and online marketing, have been highly successful in helping to sell tickets -- which is, after all, what matters most.

Direct Mail

Direct mail is an excellent marketing tool because it brings a Broadway show's campaign right to the ticket buyer's mailbox. Attractive ad pieces with the show's artwork and logo make a pitch to the consumer directly, and provide all the information they need to buy tickets right away. Extra incentive is often added in the form of a special discount code that can be used to get a discount price on tickets. Sometimes a special mailer with a CD containing a few songs from a Broadway musical will be sent out via direct mail to generate additional interest. Broadway advertisers are armed with extensive data about who the Broadway audience is, and direct mail allows them to focus their limited budget dollars on the people most likely to actually buy Broadway show tickets.

Print Advertising Moves To Web Marketing

Once very popular, print advertising has lost favor ever since the internet took hold. More and more money is now spent on online advertising, which is thought to be a better way of reaching the Broadway ticket buying consumer. Web marketing is an exciting new frontier in Broadway advertising because there are so many ways to reach the consumer, whether it's through e-mail blasts that land directly in the person's inbox, or an advertisement embedded in an article that she is reading on the web. The e-mails, which are sent out by a variety of companies that have gathered extensive mailing lists full of people interested in Broadway discounts, are usually used as a way of distributing discount codes. The consumer then uses the discount codes to purchase her Broadway tickets at a discounted price.

Print advertising is hardly obsolete, though. Advertising a Broadway show in the New York Times is still considered absolutely vital because that newspaper holds so much influence over well-to-do, upwardly mobile, and artsy New Yorkers and tri-staters who are the most dependable Broadway ticket buyers. Tourists may account for a large part of the Broadway box office, but it is the locals who can be classed as "regular" theatergoers, and these are also the people who are more likely to see plays and under-the-radar shows. At the beginning of any Broadway show campaign, the marketing agencies put special effort into advertising to these people.

Environmental Campaigns

An especially creative new specialty. SpotCo's brilliant Avenue Q advertising campaign utilized this, through ads on everything from New York City taxicabs to wearable buttons. The ads featured close-up pictures of the show's various puppet characters along with clever, slightly naughty blurbs engineered to make it clear that this puppet show is not for kids while also enticing the show's hip target audience. For the Las Vegas production of Q, they actually covered an entire taxicab in faux puppet fur to advertise the show! SpotCo is also credited with having played a large part in Avenue Q's eventual winning of the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical (over that year's Broadway heavyweight, Wicked) because of its innovative election-themed ad campaign that urged Tony voters to "vote your heart".

The Broadway advertising agency isn't like any old advertising agency; what they do is unusual. They're often on the ground floor of a project, possibly creating a logo and press materials that will help raise money to actually bring the show to Broadway. Broadway marketers must work quickly because their product is not something physical or lasting -- it only exists as long as there is an audience buying tickets to see it. Their job is an incredibly difficult one because they have so little money to work with (the advertising budget is perhaps 10% of the show's entire budget, which is never very large to begin with), and what they're trying to sell is a very expensive product. Not only are Broadway show tickets pricey, but there is often a cost for traveling into New York City (everything from a plane ticket to parking costs). Fortunately, the people who work at Broadway advertising agencies are usually very passionate about theater and are uniquely able to communicate their love of it into their work.

But passion is not enough. If the show is not good enough to generate the positive word-of-mouth that is ultimately the best insurance of a long life on Broadway, or if the audience is simply not responding to the show, there is only so much that advertising can do. Broadway marketers must pay heed to the law of diminishing returns, and if the money they're putting into ads isn't resulting in higher ticket sales, then it's time to move on.