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INTRODUCTION TO THEATRE MARKETING
RANDALL WREGHITT
March 17, 1998

GUEST: RANDALL WREGHITT of Iowa Boy Productions, producing AS BEES IN HONEY DROWN off-Broadway, and about to move BEAUTY QUEEN OF LINNEAN to Broadway; president of the firm Pro Marketing which markets many shows (e.g., GROSS INDECENCY, etc.); originally from Disney and Big Apple Circus

TOPIC: INTRODUCTION TO THEATRE MARKETING

I. Saw 37% increase in sales at Big Apple Circus although marketing budget was cut by $200,000 just as Randall came on board

II. Associate produced THREE TALL WOMEN and set up Iowa Boy Productions and Pro Marketing, currently representing 12 shows in New York, also Paper Mill Playhouse

III. Marketing facts:

A. A marketing firm needs to increase your exposure without increasing your budget

B. Theatergoers are good people to market to because they have disposable income; they will buy things

IV. Marketing methods:

A. Print i. E.g., 40 area newspapers currently advertise on a barter arrangement with Pro Marketing: they get an ad in exchange for a free ticket voucher. A voucher means you can re-sell that ticket if the voucher holder doesn't show up.

B. Radio

i. 30 radio stations: advertising in exchange for tickets; also ties in to press agents -- radio stations like to interview actors; this is free publicity. Cost to producer for bartering with print and radio: only that tickets he/she is giving away are tickets that may have sold at full price -- however, the word of mouth is worth it and if you use vouchers you can re-sell the no-shows anyway

C. Stores

i. Tie in to a store's existing event, like the Macy's flower show -- give away tickets in store, etc. You tie into something they're already doing so they don't have to put out any extra money or effort.

D. Movie

i. Advertise on movie screen before movie begins

E. Brainstorm new ideas: outdoor advertising, restaurant chains, video stores, wherever people are

F. Direct mail

i. It's great, but it's only as good as the list you have. In NYC, you can find very specific lists from Ticketmaster or Shuberts' Telecharge according to zip codes, number of times people attended, Broadway or off-Broadway, etc.

ii. You have to make sure your mailing doesn't arrive the same day as six others

iii. Mailing is directed to real theatergoer rather than just general public -- get lists from shows with similar themes, surrounding zip codes,

iv. Trade lists with other theaters in your town; you don't have to spend money, just trade

v. You can offer a discount, especially in weak selling times (like January, July, August, weekdays) and also tell them more about your show than they previously knew

vi. Stick with a professional bulk mailing house

vii. Sometimes a mailing can be shared with other shows

viii. A 3% success rate is good

G. Bookmarks

i. Instead of trying to get bookstores and libraries to put out fliers, make them into bookmarks -- then they will take them

ii. Just put the name and illustration of the show, not all the information like ticket prices or discounts

H. Posters

Get a sponsor to cover the cost of printing and put their logo on the poster

I. If you're having trouble getting someone to barter with you, sometimes the deciding factor can be to get the person making the decision in to see the show

QUESTION: Do you continue to market when show goes on tour? What if a show is really wonderful but has no star?

You put together an excellent pitch kit: TV appearances, etc.

QUESTION: In MAGIC ON BROADWAY, were you there from beginning of show? I could tell there was a change in the marketing partway through.

We came on board after a few months; their producers had never produced before and were doing things a little backwards.

QUESTION: In a small production, can you work with marketing and promotion without having an advertising agency?

I don't know why you wouldn't want to have an advertising agency. We just did a special event where they never hired an ad agency and it was a problem. Always have a professional to deal with these things; you may need something immediately and you don't want to waste your resources, e.g., having the people who are supposed to be getting newspaper barter ads spending their time on the phone trying to get a logo off someone's home computer.

QUESTION: Do you advise a show to bring on a marketing firm in previews or after it opens, when?

People never bring on marketers soon enough. For THE JAZZ SINGER on Broadway, they're starting now for next January. The earlier the better.

QUESTION: Do you specialize in straight plays?

It wasn't set up to be that way, but it has turned out that way. It's also been mostly off-Broadway, but we are moving on to Broadway now.

QUESTION: How did you recognize the hole in the marketing for shows?

I had been doing this in the non-profit sector (for Big Apple Circus) for years. Everyone needs marketing.

QUESTION: What do you do with a show that is not open-ended, a five-week run?

You sell the whole experience of going to the theater, restaurants around there, etc.

QUESTION: What do you have to offer when you're bartering for free advertising? More the company than the show?

With Paper Mill Playhouse, yes, you sell the place, which has been there for 60 years and will be there for a long time to come. With shows the show will at some point end.

QUESTION: What are you doing with GROSS INDECENCY, for example, to sell it?

We've got 40-50 papers and magazines, 35 radio stations, many stores like Bloomingdales, etc. -- e.g., Loehmann's is about to launch a new men's department so they incorporate GROSS INDECENCY into the new displays. They provide stills from the show, logos, etc., a DJ will host appearance by the cast members. The DJ will talk about how great the show is for a week, encourage people to go to Loehmann's. All it's cost you is some tickets and a cast appearance.

QUESTION: What happens if your producer doesn't like the affiliation you've come up with, like a grocery store or restaurant chain?

You just have to try to convince them of what they'd get out of it, but if they refuse, you have to abide by their wishes.

Randall Wreghitt's contact info: 212/541-8755 iowapro@aol.com

Next week: WAR STORIES from theater pros -- to show pitfalls and the path to a hit show

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