There are obviously a lot of parallels between the worlds of feature film and the “legitimate” stage, even if by that last term you mean the flashy, star-studded brands that grace Broadway and similar venues in Chicago and other cities. Which is why there are some interesting points for marketing types in any field, including movies, in this NYTimes story on some interactive strategies being utlized by those putting on Broadway shows.
Putting aside some of the journalistic choices in the story (the writer felt the need to put “mobile marketing” in quotes and make it sound like an esoteric term used by just a few wonks) it’s educational to look at some of the ways these theater marketers are trying to connect with their audience, many of which mimic what movie marketers have used.
First you have people like David Mamet who wrote a blog connected to his recent play “November.” The blog was written by Mamet, who was writing as the main character in the story, making it an extension of the story begun on the stage. This sort of tactic is always one of my favorites since it gives the audience something to latch on to either before (as a way to become familiar with the characters) or after (as a way to keep up with what’s come after) and has been used for movies like Cloverfield and others.
Then you have other, more passive tactics like the use of MySpace pages or YouTube channels as distribution points for blogs that are written by the producer or director as themselves or behind-the-scenes videos. This is a more traditional way to go but has a lot of value. Every one of those pages adds to your online footprint and creates another touch-point for the audience to find out about the show. The key, though, is to actually communicate via those platforms and not just blast stuff in the way of old-fashioned marketing. These are communication channels, but that communication has to go both ways.
Finally you have tactics that are more cute than they are actually useful. Take the creation of Shrekster, a social network built around the stage version of the successful movie series. All the characters have pages and fans can join in and connect with them. I’ve never been a fan of this type of tactic for a number of reasons. While you can make a case for profiles of fictional characters, the fact is that additional networks will never have the adoption you’d see if you did this as, say, a Facebook application. Plus, while this can be an interesting way for people in Chicago looking forward to the show can connect with those that have seen it already in New York, when the show closes it’s unlikely this will be maintained and so everyone loses their communications hub.
Broadway is losing audience faster than Hollywood is so it’s good to see them trying new things. Each of these tactics deserves their own exploration and something like that will be coming in the new year.