The advertising agent, also called the ad representative, is hired by the producer or general manager of a stage production (theater, concert, or other event) to design and execute an ad campaign with the sole aim of selling tickets. Unlike strategies for consumer products, there is immediacy to advertising a show. There is no shelf life for a performance ticket. If a body is not in that seat for a performance, that ticket can never be sold again.
The advertising agent is hired on contract very early in the pre-production phase. Immediately, a deadline is set to roll out the campaign and a budget is agreed upon. The agent will read the script (and, if a musical, listen to the score) to get a sense of the theme and style of the show. This will greatly affect the manner in which the product is advertised. Additionally, the agent is interested in knowing who is directing, designing, and starring in the show. Recognizable names, award winners, and celebrity actors can often increase audience interest and sales. Similarly, the location in which the show will play (on Broadway, in a small town, a national tour) alters the tactics. With that information, the agent will lead the complete development of the campaign, including designing artwork, selecting ad space and negotiating with media outlets, and striking deals with corporate sponsors for advertising partnerships.
An advertising art director will be assigned the responsibility of creating the visual assets used to promote the show, such as posters, billboards, marquees, magazine and newspaper ads, etc. The ad agent will oversee those activities, and will take the compositions to the producer for approval before publication. Additionally, for all radio and television ads, the agent will collaborate with staff to write scripts and cast on-screen actors or voiceover talent. A commercial production crew is then hired to film or record the necessary spots. Again, it will be the ad agent’s duty to seek final approval from the producer before the campaign material goes live. Once the ads are launched, the agent will closely monitor the effectiveness of the campaign based on targeted impressions and ticket sales, and reconcile that figure against the advertising budget.
Skills & Education
A college degree in entertainment business, advertising, marketing, or a similar field is required. Additionally, study of statistical analysis, market research, and geographical demographics is necessary in understanding the intended audience and better focusing your advertising efforts. The agent should understand the process of purchasing ad space, negotiating contracts, and the applicable copyright and licensing laws that relate to creative properties. Advertising effectively is an art, but an agent should be equipped with the proper tools to make informed creative decisions. This career requires an intelligent individual who is also capable of thinking outside the box.
What to Expect
The average advertising budget for a large Broadway musical is $1 million, with straight plays usually paying between $200,000 and $750,000 for an initial opening campaign. Weekly costs can range from $10,000 for an off-Broadway or small show to $75,000 per week on a big production. The challenge for the advertising agent is to determine how best to divide that money to produce the most effective campaign. There is no standard formula; experience is the best education. Time will teach you that in New York, radio sells a musical better in the summer, while television puts more butts in seats in the fall. The older theatrical and live event ad agencies are still paving new ground in advertising via social media, so it is a wide-open forum for the young and creative newcomers. The standard path is to gain entry-level employment with an ad agency as an assistant or intern (copy boy, mail girl) and to work your way up over time. There are also roles for artistic types as graphic designers, copywriters, and advertising art directors.
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