Lessons from Broadway

When Jed Bernstein was tapped to lead the League of American Theatres and Producers in 1995 after a 16-year career in advertising, his job was to apply his knowledge of marketing to give Broadway a boost. He did just that. Today Bernstein heads Above The Title Entertainment, a Broadway and TV production company in New York. Its projects have included the seven-time Tony nominated “Passing Strange,” the Tony-winning revival of Hair and the revival of David Mamet’s “Oleanna.” Currently, Bernstein is producing Broadway’s “Driving Miss Daisy,” starring James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave.

Being Broadway producer is very similar to working on Madison Avenue. It is important to understand a show’s target audience, its competition, and what makes it special. But there are differences. Bernstein says he has learned more about advertising from working on Broadway.

For one, he says, for small businesses advertising has to work: “A big Broadway musical spends $100,000 to $125,000 a week on advertising and marketing. If you’re lucky, your show costs $500,000 to $600,000 a week, including that, to operate. If you’re selling well, you’re grossing $1 million a week. I’m reducing profits by spending money on advertising every week so that advertising really better work. It’s money out of my pocket.”

He didn’t feel that same pressure when he managed American Express’ “Do You Know Me?” campaign at Ogilvy & Mather. (Other clients included IBM, Monsanto and the New York Stock Exchange.) “I’ve learned what it’s like to be a client….You care with intensity about the impact of every dollar you send on advertising and marketing in a way that even the greatest account executive can’t match.”

Bernstein makes another point: What’s “new” isn’t what’s best for every brand: “Print media is amazingly adept at creating value adds and a home for particular categories for large advertisers. For example, the [theatre] listings in The New York Times becomes an advertising destination. Online hasn’t done that. They are so used to the fact that they have the advantage—they are cheaper and more efficient—that they haven’t had to work hard….For ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ which targets an older audience, we must have reached out to a dozen or more Web sites that were either not set up for us—they were expensive—or they had no way to make a home within a home for what we were trying to do. We were looking for theatre-goers—most sites don’t segment that way, fair enough. But when you ask a ‘dining’ or a food site for people who eat in theatre district restaurants, you would think that was doable.”

Posted on April 12, 2011, in Melanie Wells and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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