How a TV Ad Got Me to Buy This, but I Still Won’t Buy TV Ads

I bought a car last week.

(Makes no sense having a car in the city, I know, I know, but you have a kid and a dream about driving her to a water park and see how quickly you’re visiting

And with a car comes . . . insurance.

Ahhh, insurance, an industry that spends more on advertising than most.

So this is the story of how advertising got me to buy a specific brand of car insurance.  (Side note:  One of the best ways I learn how to be a better marketer is to take a moment before I make a purchase and ask myself, “How did marketing get me to the cash register?”)

When I knew I was getting a car, I set out to get three insurance quotes to compare.  Now, guess which insurance companies I choose for those quotes?

Go on, guess.  Seriously.

Would you be surprised to hear that I got quotes from:

  1. Geico
  2. Progressive
  3. Allstate

You got at least two out of three, didn’t you? And probably the top two.


Because Geico and Progressive not only advertise all the time on Television, but they also have the most unique ads in the insurance space.  (Flo, the Progressive lady, and in Geico’s case, just plain lunacy.)

So bam . . . for a guy who doesn’t watch that much TV, I narrowed my choice down to the two companies that advertised the most and in the most clever way.  (Allstate is right up there as well – and I had used them in a previous life.)

What does this say about marketing?

TV advertising DOES still work.  Commercials seep into your brain over time, and when you’re ready to make a purchase, that product can be top of mind . . . whether you realize it or not.

So you’d think this Jekyll & Hyde-like self-experiment would have me buying TV ads for my Broadway shows, right?


Actually, the opposite.

After several years of buying TV ads for my shows, I can tell you right here and now, I won’t do it . . . ever again.

Why not?  Especially when it worked on me for car insurance?

That’s the point.

Geico has been making me laugh for years.  And so has Progressive Flo (Side note: Comedy converts).

Key word?  Years.

Years are what big awareness campaigns like TV advertising need to make the number of impressions a company needs to make a sale.  The consumer has to see that soft-sell ad so many times for a product of top of mind.  And because the profit margins of insurance companies (and other big brands) are higher than ours, and because their products can be purchased and used anywhere, as opposed to Broadway, which is consumed in one place, these companies can afford to keep advertising and just wait, wait, wait, until you need them.

In my case, it took years.

But they got me in the end.  And now, I’ll be a customer for years.  Not just for one night out.

New Broadway shows aren’t insurance companies.  They are startups.  They are brand new to the market.  They don’t have years to wait for a consumer to need them.  And, no one ever needs a show like they need insurance, food, etc.  We’re optional.

Awareness bombs like TV are wasted on new products of any kind, but especially niche ones like Broadway shows.  What we need is a targeted approach to getting the right people to see a show and fast.

Now look, I love the medium of telling your story through video to capture a sale . . . but traditional TV advertising is way too expensive to justify for 90% of Broadway shows.

So I’m done.

If it were cheaper?  Sure.  If it were more targeted (hello, Programmatic TV buying through the Hulus of the world), sure, sure.

But as an awareness builder?

We don’t have time or money for those kinds of campaigns.

For a new show, you’re much better off putting that money into something more trackable and sales-focused (on Once On This Island we skipped traditional TV in the lead up to the first performance and opened with the same advance that we expected to have with TV).


I just realized something.

I wrote a similar blog about print advertising a few years back.

It looks like TV is the next traditional form of media to fall.

Want to hear other Broadway A-list experts chime in on this and more marketing matters?  Click here.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.