It’s true that a picture says a thousand words and if you are a Billboard buyer in Times Square, you better hope that image also leads to a million dollars as well!
It’s true that a picture says a thousand words and if you are a Billboard buyer in Times Square, you better hope that image also leads to a million dollars as well as the thousand words. Judging by the number of shows that are featured in the iconic concrete hallways of New York’s most famous streets, it’s clear the power of the visual still makes an important statement in Broadway marketing terms. Times Square is an homage to the beauty of visual marketing and the clout that this traditional form of promotion still maintains.
A quick peer around the posters for shows, both present and past, made me wonder whether musicals have been done a disservice by not creating more compelling and personally interesting promotional materials to have on display for millions of tourists to see. It seems so many shows currently on the Great White Way are represented by illustrations and artworks which fail to show off one of their greatest assets, the performers themselves. It’s obvious you can’t have the score blaring from the billboard but you could sure have a charismatic leading woman or man staring down at you to engage those standing in the TKTS lines. While productions with marquee names are happy to invest in promotional materials featuring their star, those who aren’t pulling from the celebrity quotient are often marketing their wares without showing off their personnel.
Could we make Broadway stars household names by featuring them on the collateral more? You can barely read two blogs without someone bemoaning the rise and rise of the celebrity infiltration of Broadway. This is a proven money-maker for producers so can’t be criticised but if more was done to visually grow the profiles of theatre’s “homegrown” stars, could they more quickly rise to being capable of attracting audience dollars?
There of course is the argument that the show is a bigger brand than the stars within it and invariably, actors will come and go but the visual branding can remain the same. A great example of this is the globally-used image for Wicked.
Despite having some of the musical theatre industry’s biggest names walk the boards in their leading roles, promotion for the show has traditionally featured this image rather than those who have appeared in the roles including Broadway luminaries Kristen Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Stephanie J. Block not to mention a host of sporting spunks in the Fiyero role.
Mind you, if you DO have a marquee name to send out to the masses, you won’t be able to contain producers from blaring it to the world. Take for instance, the freshly-opened On a Clear Day You Can See Forever starring Harry Connick, Jr. – its poster is emblazoned with the matinee idol good looks of its crooner star. Admittedly, he is peering at a heart-shaped bouquet of flowers but evidently the powers-that-be think this will entice the crowds to hear his dulcet tones.
It’s true that this musical will probably close its door when Connick leaves the fold but it got me to thinking about whether that personal face, that enticing expression could be an asset to all Broadway shows, even the ones who haven’t yet had a guest starring role on Glee or Gossip Girl to grow their profile. Surely the more recognisable their faces, the more everyone benefits from the buzz and excitement that comes with that familiarity.
Even sports teams whose stars may revolve in and out of their fold focus much of their promotion around their leading lights, despite the knowledge they may leave at the end of a season to join another team and of course, eventually retire from the game altogether. It hasn’t stopped the Miami Heat growing their brand infinitely around the globe by flogging the photos and merchandise of LeBron James. The NFL team, the Denver Broncos, have seen their merchandise revenue soar with the popularity of their relatively-new and sensation-causing quarterback Tim Tebow. For all they know, Tebow could jump ship at the end of his contract but they’ll take the opportunity to grow their brand in conjunction with their squeaky clean star while he is there. Why couldn’t Broadway producers do the same? Sports teams don’t use a cartoon image of their mascot or an illustration of the protagonists to fuel interest in their product, they go to the heart of the matter by profiling the people. Couldn’t Broadway shows work the same way? Surely it’s not too much effort to take a new round of photographs if there is a change in casting?
Maybe it’s all part of the creative genius or maybe we could subscribe to the theory that people only know what you tell them. Tell them they are going to see some stars and maybe they’ll believe it.
- The casting for the movie version of Les Miserables continues to heat up with Next to Normal alum Aaron Tveit joining the line-up as Enjolras. He joins, of course, Hugh Jackman who has signed on to play the iconic Jean Valjean, as well as Russell Crowe, Sacha Baron Cohn and Anne Hathaway.
- There is much talk that the only newly-opened Bonnie & Clyde (fascinatingly written by Frank Wildhorn, known for both Jekyll & Hyde and for writing Whitney Houston’s #1 Where Do Broken Hearts Go?), which only opened at the start of the month, must be destined for an early closing. Despite some good followings on forums, its lacklustre performance has led to Telecharge only opening sales until December 31st. Hopefully it can live to see the new year.
- A fascinating new memoir from longtime Broadway theatre owner and producer will be released posthumously, with his widow finishing up the critical details. The stories of Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of the Shubert Organization, will be released next April in the book Mr Broadway: The Inside Story of the Shuberts, the Shows and the Stars.
Times Square image: Photographerglen