Drew Hodges of SpotCo on Marketing for the Commercial Theater

Jed-DrewDREW HODGES, founder and CEO of entertainment advertising agency SpotCo, has been in the entertainment industry since SpotCo first opened as Spot Design, a design studio for entertainment graphics, in the late 1980s. In 1997, Hodges launched SpotCo and countless Broadway, Off-Broadway, and institutional branding and advertising campaigns were born. SpotCo’s roster of clients includes The Weinstein Company, Cirque du Soleil, The Disney Channel, and over 20 current Broadway and national touring productions. 

The agency has been honored with awards from the Art Directors Club, The American Institute of Graphic Design, Print, HOW, Communication Arts, and the Broadcast Design Awards, and has represented 6 Pulitzer Prize winners.

So who better than Drew to give you a little inside peak at how Broadway campaigns come together and how the landscape of entertainment marketing is changing? CTI’s Executive Director JED BERNSTEIN hit Mr. Hodges with a few questions about this vital component of the theater industry.

JED:  What is the process by which an ad agency gets hired to work on a production?

DREW: Some clients are returning clients – in that case, we get a call, a script, or perhaps an informational meeting where a project gets discussed. On occasion, large musicals ask several agencies to pitch. Not unexpectedly, I find this process a less than efficient one, but it is a part of the current landscape. The least good part of a pitch? Most of the work is never used, as it is very early in the process, and the agency is just beginning to understand the project.

J:  What are some strategic differences for marketing and advertising between open ended and limited engagements?

D: Obviously, one difference is that from day one of the campaign, you get to promote the urgency to “buy your tickets now”. And keep doing it. It also gives you a strong closing message, which helps considerably. Also, your audience is a fairly known quantity. An open ended run has an audience that keeps expanding like the rings on a bullseye. Which means your tactics need to keep evolving as your audience does.

J: Given the increasing importance of digital media, what are some key ways in which commercial theater marketing has changed over the past decade?

D: To quote a famous co-worker, “Print is dead”. Digital is the equivalent of The New York Times at this point. Shows are launched digitally. Also, digital allows you to reach a theater insider at a very low cost, which I believe is allowing budgets to work with broadcast to reach out to a larger audience. And lastly (actually not lastly – this question could go on and on) digital is the first real tool that allows our marketing to reach beyond the local New York market.

J: What do you think is a common trap that a marketing campaign should avoid? 

D: Not being honest about what elements of your production are pros and what are cons. And then using your marketing to solve those issues. Young producers think their production is perfect. Experienced producers see both sides.

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To learn more about commercial theatrical marketing, sign up for CTI’s MARKETING: Measurement, Analysis, and Tactics seminar (or webinar simulcast for those of you who can’t attend in person!). Instructors include the best and brightest from SpotCo and other top advertising and branding companies AKA, Situation Interactive, and Serino Coyne

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