Negative ads aren’t just for politicians, unfortunately.

Just about every politician swears they won’t do it.

And then, when their backs are against the primary walls and they get a little desperate, they pull out the negative ads, taking pot shots at their competitors.

Why do they do it?  Because, well, they work, as evidenced in this CNN article.

Broadway doesn’t talk about its competitors much.  You don’t see print ads with The King and I making cracks about An American in Paris or TV commercials with the kids in Matilda bullying their counterparts in School of Rock.

We keep it pretty clean.


I’ve been hearing rumors about a street team that operates on the TKTS island that has been trash talking other shows.  This “promotional team” has come up at advertising meetings and is known for pushing people away from shows that aren’t paying them by saying how “bad” they are, and trying to get those same people to buy tickets for the shows that are paying them.  Gross.  Apparently, like politicians feeling like they are running out of time, they’re so desperate that they’ll cut another show down in the hopes of getting a sale.

And while I don’t have any data, it probably works, just like it does for the politicians.

But it’s really bad form.

Negative advertising in any industry shows a serious lack of confidence and faith in what you’re doing.  You’ve run out of your own virtues to extol, so you get defensive and go after others.

It may get you some quick cash, but it won’t get you to your long term goals.

You know what my sales people do when a client asks them about another show?  We answer honestly . . . and positively.  We encourage them to get tickets for the other show . . . and instantly, we gain serious amounts of trust because the customer knows we’re not making any more on this deal, but are recommending the show regardless.

Boom.  Instant loyalty.  So guess what show they’ll want to see next?  (Cialdini talks about this in his “waiter study” in Influence . . . where waiters have increased their tips by suggesting items on the menu that are NOT the most expensive.)

Bad mouthing other shows is simply a sign of bad sales technique.  Your show deserves better than that.  And if it doesn’t, well then, get yourself another show.


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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.