Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Let's Hear It for the Boys: Elvis, Idiots, Andrew, Scottboro and Lombardi

Let's take a look at some TV commercials that put Broadway shows in view of their target audience: men!  Producers have long struggled with getting more men to the theatre, instead of just having them arrive as arm candy for their theatre-loving wives.  I think we can all agree that the gay male segment of the male population has been served well-enough both in advertising and content of Broadway shows for years.  It is the straight, married, along-for-the-ride guys that more and more shows are targeting with advertising.  Is it working?

Well, some shows seem to be man magnets with or without advertising aimed at the guys.  Jersey Boys  is a prime example.  I can name at least 7 men in my office (out of 29 souls) that have seen that show, and of them 3 have seen it multiple times.  I guess you can't get more guy-friendly than 4 males from Jersey singing "songs like they just don't make anymore."  (Yes, my boss actually said that about the show.)  And get this, he and another guy in my office are thinking of checking out another 4 guys aka the Million Dollar Quartet

Million Dollar Quartet
That show, as evidenced by a huge poster in Shubert Alley and an aggressive audio and video campaign is unabashedly going after the man who escorts his lady love to Times Square:

"Wife-tested, husband-approved," huh?  Let's see a woman's voice gets both of them to look up at the TV.  The first qualifier, "Passion," gets her interested because well, it is romantic, right?  And he's noticing the lip action with a hot babe (even I can recognize that Elizabeth Stanley is smoking hot).  Then you have that nasty "Betrayal" with one guy in the face of another (has Hunter Foster ever looked that charged up?).  And you end it with the dazzle of "concert footage" aka safe visuals for the anti-musical man.  We give them a reason to sing and it's cool (not to mention the absence of OMG! DANCING!).  Top it off with 4 manly men for the ages - Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl and Johnny, plus a hard rocking (and nostalgic) underscoring of "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Hound Dog."  Testosterone pretty much beams out of the TV set and there is, gasp, finally a show both members of a couple can agree on.  Considering its goal, I think the ad is spot on.  I wonder how it is working, though.  the show's attendance numbers haven't really spiked...

Grade: A

American Idiot/Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

For the younger guys, is there a more exciting pair of musicals than American Idiot and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson?

For an earlier advertisement for American Idiot, please read my comments HERE.

I stand by what I said then, especially now that I have seen it more than once.

Grade: A

Limited by the fact that I don't live in NY and the stations I get don't come from there, I can't verify whether or not Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson has a longer TV commercial yet or not, but here is a very short one.

Well, it certainly does a lot fast: for the girls, pin-up quality glimpses of Mr. Hot Broadway, Benjamin Walker, plus a killer tag line - "Broadway Just Got All Sexy Pants"; for the theatre goer needing validation, a New York Times quote, and for they guys: a rocking song, that combined with the frantic visuals never really registers as "Populism, Yeah Yeah!" but just more gritty rock live on stage.  "Hey, if my girl can drag me to that Green Day show, and I liked it, maybe this won't be too bad, either," he's thinking.  Funny how they gloss over the Andrew Jackson part, and don't use the real tag line, "History Just Got All Sexy Pants."  Shows about dead presidents won't bring them in in droves.  What this does in 16 seconds is all great, but a longer commercial will probably sell more tickets...

Grade: A-

The Scottsboro Boys

I think this brilliant ad speaks to everyone:  the music and joyous jumping/dancing, along with the references to past shows by Kander and Ebb should really appeal to theatre goers; the cast should get more men to at least give it a second look, after all, how "prissy Broadway musical" can a show with all these guys be?; and the striking use of violent headlines projected like whipping scars on the backs of black men should ignite a spark in any American who has ever felt that injustice wins out far too much.  These days, that universally American feeling might just sell this complex and controversial show.  Not having seen it yet, I can't speak to how well it reflects the show it is advertising, but as a commercial it does its job for this viewer: I am intrigued and excited about seeing this new show.  Easily the best TV spot for a Broadway show this year.

Grade: A+


With the NFL as a producing partner, there is no other show on Broadway that needs to or is more likely to court potential male patrons than Lombardi.  And the producers are smart.  The initial spot is simple, to the point and features a star many guys know, Dan Lauria from TV's The Wonder Years, who looks and talks amazingly like football legend/icon Vince Lombardi.  Just so they know they wouldn't be seeing a film, the commercial looks theatrical - live people in slow motion staring at the camera, lights ablaze...ah, but those light look like stadium lights, so it is still cool.  Add three rough and tumble Green Bay Packers, and wow, this could be a show a manly man could love.  Still, a guy couldn't be caught dead going to a Broadway show ALONE!  So they sneak in another beloved TV (and soap queen) star, Judith Light, silent and a drink in hand.  "OK, so my wife/girlfriend won't be bored with all the football stuff," he thinks.  And just who is that other guy with the pad... leave it to the press to muck it up!  I can see a lot of sales in Lombardi's future if enough guys actually see this commercial.  And how many other Broadway show air ads on ESPN?

Grade: A+

Smart producers they are!  They have also created two other brief ads to appeal to more sectors of the ticket buying public.  And both are also A+ efforts!

For the ladies who might think there is nothing in it for them, this goes a long way toward showing them that even on Broadway, they won't be football widows.

And for theatre folks, tie it all up with a whiff of controversy and drama... and give us a chance to show that football can be more interesting to us besides the Super Bowl ads and halftime show!  (I'm joking... I'm sure there are many Broadway/NFL fans out there...)

Let's hope these shows are as good as their advertising, right?

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