What’s On The Outside Matters

There has never been a marketer who has uttered the phrase ‘Never Judge A Book By Its Cover’. Why? Because, frankly, every customer judges a book by its cover. A television show by a thirty second promo. A movie by its poster. And a Broadway show by its marquee.


Whether or not they know it, every show on Broadway is given an enormous billboard-like ad space for free. Their theatre. There is marquee signage above the entrance, often you will find light boxes either side of the doors and then there are the doors themselves. With Times Square becoming such an advertising overload, it is outside the theatre where you will have the biggest impact on passing tourists as you get twenty seconds to completely engulf them in your advertising.

Think about this customer. They are walking through the tourist mecca of the Broadway district – so, chances are, they’re a tourist. They are in the same area as Times Square so are probably ticking off the bucket list item of getting a photo in Times Square. And they are probably looking to do other quintessential New York experiences such as going to the theatre.

But they aren’t the only customer that will be walking past your marquees. These other ones have already been to the theatre that night and are heading back home. Probably on the high from an incredible live performance experience, they will be considering what they want to see next . . . until they walk past your theatre and see your billboard.

These are two bread and butter customers for the theatre. People who are already interested in the entertainment medium and spend their money with the industry plus those who are visiting the town and looking to see a show. So the theatre marquee is an incredibly important component of your advertising strategy.

At this time of the year, the Broadway community undergoes a number of changeovers. If shows are going to end their run, then they tend to do so in the first couple of week on January before a new show jumps in ready to jump on the awards season bandwagon kicking off in March. And with all these changeovers come a whole new set of marquees.

There are hundreds of different strategies that have been employed to reach out to customers. Some rely on the show’s brand name to sell tickets. Wicked, Phantom, Les Miserablés – little else is needed as each of these names carry so much gravitas for people looking to have a theatrical experience. Lesser known shows will rely on big imagery capturing the feeling of the show and some of the highlights hoping to grab audiences as they walk by. Others will rely on the kind words from theatre critics and reviewers plastered across their doors. Disney takes a different tact altogether tending to give passers-by an experience rubbing a magic lamp or flying away with Mary Poppins.

But none are as effective as Rock of Ages.

This show was not like the others on Broadway. Running for ten years, it offered something for the wannabe theatre audiences who had no interest in traditional musical theatre . . . many years before the likes of Book of Mormon and Hamilton came to town. A rock ’n’ roll experience! So why market the show the same way as everybody else.

They had the same marquee advertising, door decals and lightboxes as everyone else. They distributed brochures to tourist hubs, bought billboards and played television commercials. But they also gave passers-by more than a purely visual experience when they passed the theatre. Passers-by heard the show. Whenever the theatre was dark, Rock of Ages would be playing the cast recording over speakers located under the marquee. Especially important when it was their rock music which provided such a point of difference.

Giving the audience a taste of the experience they were in for, that is how you capture your passers-by. Because chances are, while they want to see a show, their tastes may not skew to the traditional musical theatre!