Desperate times call for desperate measures

With the advent of the citizen journalist and the myriad of technologies that have empowered the consumer to decide how, when and where he or she deigns to receive content, it comes as no surprise that an increasingly desperate advertising industry is becoming increasingly desperate.

What else can explain the explosion of commercials we’re seeing in movie theatres across the country? Or, sadly, the very first "commercial" to be shown on a live theatre stage.

The nauseating event occurred last night before a performance of "Stomp" at the Orpheum TheatreCurtain_1   in the East Village and featured some sort of pitch by Visit London, a tourist organization. Visit London’s Communications Director Ken Kelling explained why he subjected theatregoers to the live "spot" by saying, "They’re a captive audience. They can’t switch channels or change over or walk out once the thing has started."

How sad. How offensive. But, we can expect to see more of these intrusions as desperate advertisers and their ad agencies continue trying to figure out a marketplace that no longer responds the way it used to. One day, they’ll wake up and figure out the power of word-of-mouth, "influencers" and public relations. But, until then, don’t be surprised if a toothpaste or cell phone ad precedes your long-awaited, much anticipated chance to finally see "The Producers." Hey, maybe they’ll even start selling the products and services they advertise on stage right alongside the CD’s and t-shirts they push on you after the show. I know I would have been open to purchasing some home furnishings after having seen "Pillowman."

11 thoughts on “Desperate times call for desperate measures

  1. I do accept as true with all the ideas you have presented on your post.

    They are very convincing and can certainly work.
    Still, the posts are very quick for newbies.

    May you please extend them a bit from subsequent time?
    Thank you for the post.

  2. While I agree that this had created buzz for the tour company, the buzz is a flash in the pan. It won’t last and it will have no long-lasting impact on increasing tourism.

  3. Briz — we’re talking theater as in plays/musicals, so Evelyn’s just saying she would wait until the show begins before heading to her assigned seat. This is a great example of people taking control and filtering out ads however they can. Jimmy’s comment about branded entertainment (product placements) is where it’s all heading though. There is no way to filter it out. Kill the TV maybe?

  4. We’re talking theatre not movies. The audience is live as well and I think they are setting themselves up for some real time feed back they may not want to hear. Heckling- cell phone conversations, etc. Sure the offender would be ousted from the theatre, but could be worth it to make a point.

  5. Evelyn,
    If that’s the case, you may not get a ‘good’ seat.
    People are pissed off about these forced advertisements. But, there’s nothing that can be done. Theather owners need to make their money somehow. I can’t imagine that this will stop people from going to see a particular movie.

  6. Andrew, great point about the buzz it created. This is yet another case of advertising driving pr, and a company getting a double bang for its buck.

  7. I have long been insulted by the after-curtain plea by cast members soliciting contributions for “Equity Fights Aids.” In fact, I have walked out once their shameless begging begins. If commercials before curtain become standard I am likely to delay being seated until it is over and the reason I spent money to go to the theatre begins. I will not be held hostage by advertisers.

  8. While I agree it’s a little sad that “ads” are now invading the theatre, I have to admit that a live ad is an interesting tactic. And interesting tactics = buzz. If you Google “Visit London” and “Stomp,” you’ll see over 60 mainstream news articles about it, not to mention the blog discussions. Positive coverage or not, they are getting people talking. Question is, will this buzz translate into an increase in travel to London?
    Ted, love the idea of Visit London commissioning a short play about the city. They’d need some star power behind it though in order to generate interest.

  9. There’s no doubt that this tactic is new for the advertising industry. After all, it is a first-ever. However, the question that should be debated is will it be effective? Initial feedback is a solid NO so I have to disagree with your post MSE. If you haven’t done so already, read the NY Times article about this. The reporter said he could barely hear the “actors” and it was confusing at best as to what was going on.
    My guess is that marketers will quickly see that this tactic will not drive results. It may work on some of the tourists but the die hard theater crowd will reject this in a big way.
    Hey, I have an idea: The London tourist company that sponsored the ad could instead commission a short play about the City of London (along the lines of the BMW short film series). How cool would it be to produce an award winning play for the Web or even in the theater about the city you’re trying to promote? For me, watching a play (online or in the theater) about something or someone is a lot more inspiring than watching a two minute advertisement before Showtime.

  10. Rep-
    You once again have devoted a blog to “the fall of advertising” and again I disagree. But this time, you talked about how advertisers are turning to new avenues to promote products- i.e.- the theater, and as Jimmy mentioned, product placement. You are always very high on “adapting” a business model and I think the example you highlighted proves that advertisers are doing just that.
    Today, ads are seen before movies, they are on the sides on buses and taxis, on the ice for hockey games, etc. and I think this is a great example of ad agencies moving beyond the 30-second spot and print ad, much in the way that PR has moved beyond print and broadcast pitching. You clearly are a brilliant marketing mind, but why can’t you applaud the ad agencies for doing the same thing you are essentially doing.
    It’s understandable that you (meaning pr firms) would hope that a larger slice of the marketing budget pie would be devoted to pr as opposed to advertising. If you don’t want to “applaud” the ad guys for adapting much the way you are, that’s fine, but sounding the warning alarm for the imminent death of advertising is getting a bit to carried away.

  11. Yea, it’s a real pain, but we better get used to it.
    Any fan of 24 will have noticed that they are promoting advertiser’s products during the show. Cisco (used for web conferencing), Ford (trucks/cars driven), and others items are woven into the actual show. While those were done in a slick manner, I can’t imagine having to watch a “commercial” before an intermission.
    Viva la Tivo!