What Broadway Producers and Publicists can learn from The Balloon Boy.

What a big balloon bozo.

I’ll admit it. I’m a huge fan of creative “stunts” designed to get your “product” attention.  In a cluttered marketing environment (like, I don’t know, Broadway?) the right story can get you more attention than you could ever afford.

I’ve done a few in my day, from allowing virgins to get in free, to being the first musical to endorse a political candidate, and so on.  Some worked. Some didn’t.  And with some, we were betrayed by hypocritical politicians who claimed they were for the little guy (when the truth was they were only for their own “little guy”).

Regardless of the wackiness of some of the things I’ve done, or some of the things others have done successfully, they were always based in truth, and exaggerated for fun from there.

And no one got hurt in the process by the exaggeration.

Unlike the insanity of the parents of the Balloon Boy.

One of the most famous Broadway stunts is the David Merrick Subways Are For Sleeping poster campaign, where he found individuals with the same names as the biggest critics in town to give him great quotes about the show, and he put these quotes all over the poster.  See photo.

Fun, right?  And truthful.  (The ad also had pictures of the “critics” so he couldn’t be accused of trying to overtly mislead the public – of course no one knew what those guys looked liked in those days anyway).

Was Merrick pushing it?  Yes, but the campaign was also a subtle comment on the value we put in a name, therefore brilliant.

The crazy part is that Merrick got even more press from getting caught than he got from the campaign itself (he admitted that he had come up with this idea years before but he couldn’t find anyone with the same name as Times critic, Brooks Atkinson.  When Atkinson retired in 1961, Merrick was good to go).

And that’s the barometer of whether a stunt is worth doing.

Ask yourself . . . if I get “caught,” will I benefit even more?  If someone busts me, will I look like a balloon boy boob, or an inventive entrepreneur.

If you’re even close to looking like a BBB, then go back to the drawing board.

Start with the truth and use your creativity to take you to heights higher than any BS balloon could take you.

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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.