It’s much easier to market to people when they are in your house.

Advertising isn’t about impressions.  It’s about conversions.  Someone could offer me a free 1,000,000 piece direct mail for Godspell to citizens in Sri Lanka and it would be just about worthless, because the odds of a Sri Lankan citizen buying tickets to a Broadway show, are, well . . . like the odds of you buying a ticket to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka.  Not impossible, but not likely.

The key is finding the people that are most inclined to buy a theater ticket, and advertising to them.  Advertising to 1,000 people that are constant theatergoers is more lucrative than advertising to 10,000 people who aren’t.

So where do you find them?

Well, I’ve got one place you find theatergoers . . . in theaters. (Insert “Duh” here.)

Last week, 250,000 qualified customers walked in and out of our theaters . . . wouldn’t it make sense to increase our advertising efforts there?

I’ve written about this subject before, but I was reminded of what a poor job we do it marketing to the people “in our house” after seeing Tower Heist this weekend at my local Loews.  Everywhere I turned, I saw advertising for other movies.  There were cardboard cutout displays and posters in the lobby.  There were hanging signs near the concessions booth.  The popcorn sellers were all wearing Arthur Christmas T-Shirts.  Before my movie I saw previews.  My jumbo sized soda cup was branded.  And more.

Now, I do not . . . let me repeat and in bold . . . do not . . . think that the theater should go to such extremes to advertise inside its theaters.  To do what our slutty but more successful brethern in the film industry do would be like hanging up a Verizon sign inside the Louvre.  Blechy.

But, there are things we can do that are more subtle that could have the same desired effect.

  • Could a flyer or flyers be given to every customer who picks up tickets at the box office?
  • Could the merch bags be stuffed with offers from other shows?
  • Could a “theatre host/concierge” walk through the lobby, talk to patrons, and recommend other shows, and hand out information/offers upon request?
  • Could there be signage for other shows, but just not in the actual theater itself – what about the restrooms?
  • What about flyer stands for other productions in the lobby by the box office?
  • Union regulations abound on Broadway, but why not allow customers to purchase tickets for other shows in the box office via the B.O. staffer or by ATM like device?

There is absolutely a line that we don’t want to cross with promotions inside our theaters. No question.  But IMHO, we haven’t even come close to it yet.

What are your ideas for advertising to theatergoers once they are inside our four walls?


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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.