|Broadway TV Commercials – A history of Broadway on TV|
|by Dom O’Hanlon – on 12 Nov 2015|
Watching new musicals open on both sides of the Atlantic, I’m often struck at the difference in efforts put in by productions in terms of marketing. Traditional ways of marketing include posters on the tube, London bus takeovers and the like – but with new media being front and centre in everyone’s daily life – social media has taken over as a key way to reach a core demographic.
There are many things that contribute towards a successful marketing campaign, but I recently read a quote from a producer who has embraced new media’s ability to lift a show from the 2D poster and place it into the 3D world – through EPK’s (Electronic Press Kits) to YouTube videos, specially commissioned videos and clips from the show. Whilst artistically, many would argue that exposing too much detail from a particular production can ruin the surprise, history would argue that instead this visual experience engages the consumer more and boosts interest in seeing the show live.
The history of TV commercials on Broadway is exceptionally interesting. Pippin broke new ground when it became the first show to actively show footage of the production during the commercial, a move that took Broadway by storm, and changed how marketing would work forever. Bob Fosse’s production originally opened on 23 October 1972, and ran for 1,944 performances before closing on 12 June 1977. Whilst it got off to a slow start, the combination of being a ‘concept’ musical and an unknown subject matter meant it was initially difficult to market.
Despite initial reservations from Fosse, he decided to choreograph and film a small 60 second segment of the production that showed Ben Vereen and two other dancers, Candy Brown and Pamela Sousa perform the “Manson Trio” from the song “Glory”. The commercial ended with the tagline: “You can see the other 119 minutes of Pippin live at the Imperial Theatre, without commercial interruption.”
The power of this commercial was so unique, that other productions soon got on the bandwagon, with some achieving more success than others. Since 1972, the practise is continued on both sides of the Atlantic, with commercials growing in size and stature – teams of people are now employed specifically to deliver the goods, with the hope that sales will pick up as the footage is beamed out across the country, and of course the world.
Whilst today it’s even easier to tap into that market – as a TV spot isn’t even needed to have the same effect. Video commercials can easily be shared and distributed online via social media and websites – footage from productions is now as vital as having an interesting poster.
Pippin aside, below is a selection of my personal favorite commercials from Broadway past:
2. Chicago (1975)
Whilst Bennett’s Chorus Line was packing them in at the Schubert, Fosse was attempting to do the same thing with an original musical of his own. Now the longest running revival on Broadway, the original production of Chicago was quite different, and starred Fosse’s wife Gwen Verdon opposite Chita Rivera. Notice how the commercial retains much of Pippin’s charm, focusing on just a moment of the show rather than a montage.