Theater on Broadway did not happen overnight. It all started in 1870 with P.T. Barnum who decided to open an entertainment center on Broadway. During the previous 120 years, Nassau Street had been the place to go to see the hottest productions of Shakespearean plays.
Yes, leave it to P.T. Barnum to implement his vision of what theater could be. The first musical, “The Black Crook” was a hit even though it was five hours long. This historical production is considered to be the beginning of the Broadway we have come to know and love.
Today, the Broadway theater industry brings in over $900 million in ticket sales from the 39 theaters in the district alone. This doesn’t account for the touring companies’ ticket sales, merchandising and all the other lovely streams of revenue.
After learning about such astronomical numbers, we got curious and wanted to hear from one of New York City’s key players in the marketing of this industry: Amanda Pekoe, CEO and founder of The Pekoe Group, which specializes in Broadway and entertainment marketing.
Faleris: So, why Broadway? What first inspired you to launch this marketing group?
Pekoe: I used to be a performer until I discovered the business side of the industry and I was immediately drawn to it. I understand the power of live performance and I enjoy cultivating an audience and bringing theater to groups of people who will be impacted by what they see on stage. I have an MFA in Performing Arts Management and have been working in the industry since 2002.
Plus, the advertising industry was changing drastically and I saw an opportunity to provide unique services for the theater industry. My background was a blend of traditional marketing and advertising, as well as producing, and I thought all of those skill sets together would be very helpful in creating an agency from a new perspective.
Faleris: Is the competition for this business tough?
Pekoe: Yes, advertising regardless of what industry you’re in, is extremely competitive and that is part of what I love about it. In addition, theater is a volatile market where shows often don’t last as long as anticipated, so that raises the stakes of the work we do.
Faleris: How many facets of theater marketing does the group handle?
Pekoe: The Pekoe Group is a full service agency and we handle everything from branding and design to web sites to grassroots promotions to social media management to media buying and placing! With that comes the ability to oversee each aspect of a marketing and advertising campaign, from start to completion, and to make sure that there is consistency of messaging across all platforms.
Faleris: How far in advance do you start marketing for the Tony’s?
Pekoe: The marketing for Tony Awards begins when the nominations are announced.
Faleris: Is there such a thing as a conflict of interest in your business? How does that work?
Pekoe: There isn’t very often; the only time I have seen that happen is when two shows are capitalizing with the same source material, and sometimes the same title. In that instance normally one agency will not represent both shows.
Faleris: What are your company philosophies?
Pekoe: We believe in collaborative storytelling and we see ourselves as part of the creative team for the show. We create advertising and marketing initiatives that communicate the themes and experience of the show to potential audience members.
Faleris: Give us an overview of this segment of the entertainment industry? Is it fast and furious or more about long-term strategic planning?
Pekoe: It is a combination of both. Getting through opening is fast and furious and after that we switch over to a strategic and long-term plan, if a show makes it that far. Some shows hire an advertising agency well in advance of the show’s launch. This gives the agency the time for creative and strategic research and strategy.
Other times shows hire an agency at the last possible moment and it becomes our task to quickly conceptualize all the possibilities for the marketing campaign. We are hired as the agency of record for shows so that means we are used for all of the marketing and advertising. Occasionally we are approached on a per-service or per-campaign basis, but that’s the exception rather than the norm.
Faleris: What is the typical media mix for each show? Is social media a part of the mix? If so, how do you use it to appeal to the different audience types?
Pekoe: Word of mouth is the most profound way to influence the success of a Broadway show, and in marketing social media is considered an extension of word of mouth. So having a huge and positive presence in social media is beneficial to the awareness and how the show is generally received by the ticket buying public.
What used to be buzz on the street is now comments, likes and engagement on social media platforms. It has had a huge indirect influence on how audiences talk about and share their experiences about a show. It hasn’t directly impacted TONY voting, as in, you can’t cast your vote for shows via social media and have it impact the outcome of the awards. But social media has brought greater awareness about Broadway and theater in general, to a wider group of people. Social media also brings the experience of the TONY Awards to a broader audience and therefore elevates the Broadway brand across the world.
An interesting inside look at the world of marketing within the Broadway theater district, which is ever-changing. The Pekoe Group is located in New York City and although specializing in Broadway theater, they have also expanded their marketing services to additional entertainment and cultural events. Click here for more information on The Pekoe Group.
For a quick look at this year’s Tony nominations, click here.