Best of 2011: Top Ten Ad Campaigns

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Innovative ideas, A-List Celebrity, or just plain Luck

Traditionally, word-of-mouth is noted as the most influential factor in show selection. Advertisements can only do so much to situate the show; people have to talk. Many productions have turned to alternative methods to aid in the sharing of information, promoting greater interest. Other shows benefit from their cast selections, while others seem to rely on luck.

10. The Book of Mormon

So, Tony Award success may have had just a little to do with the remarkable box office triumph. But the mere content of the show and it’s promise of provocative, perhaps offensive, affair encourages buzz as well. The Book of Mormon doesn’t really make the list because of its stellar ad campaign. It makes the list because the show’s success inspired an ad campaign by the actual Mormon Church. The “I’m a Mormon” campaign launched, placing ads in Times Square.

9. Wicked

Wicked introduced a mobile ad campaign, which turned to targeted, commerce-enabled mobile banner advertisements to increase ticket sales. The banner ads let consumers buy tickets and interact from the phone. It must have worked because Wicked was, again, the top grossing Broadway show.

8. Billy Elliot

Billy Elliot has had a long, pretty successful run, but when ticket sales began to slow, the show applied a few creative changes, which included the elimination of some profanity, to help draw more families and school groups.


RENT did not require extreme measures. The show has a strong following, willing to see the show and willing to encourage others to see it as well. Even so, when an open casting call was announces young actors were in a frenzy. The line was blocks long and they saw everyone. The free press and generated buzz were worth the time.

6. Sister Act

Even after successful reviews, Sister Act has had trouble gaining a following. So, in attempt to change their image, the  show’s original logo and advertisements, which depicted dated cartoon nuns, were swapped to reflect more current images and focus on the show’s star. It leaves room for interpretation. Sister Act has also reached a wider range of people through their television appearances on Dancing with the Stars and The View.

5. Seminar

Casting. Alan Rickman, as well as costar Lily Rabe, likely drew many to the production. Additionally Seminar utilized Facebook, facilitating an active page with offers  and insight into the play.. For instance, on opening night they ran an interactive trivia game for the fans as well as offering prizes.

4. Spider-man

While it may have been unintentional, the stunt accidents, the changing of the guard, the horrible press all accounted for the tremendous success of the show. Just this past week Spider-man broke box office records. Throughout it’s 161 preview performances the show was more than the talk of the Broadway world, it was the featured on every newscast, paper, and twitter feed.

3. How to Succeed in Business

Casting Harry Potter, aka Daniel Radcliffe, generated enough word-of mouth action to make the show a success. Additionally, the show held “The Search for the Ultimate Fan Content.” Fans were encouraged to submit videos that highlight their unrestrained excitement for the show and the contest winner was flown to New York City to see the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, meet cast members, and was to be featured in a video series highlighting the experience of winning the contest from their point of view.

2. Pricilla Queen of the Desert

In attempt to bring the show to the forefront, the Broadway musical “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” began to let consumers buy tickets to its show via targeted mobile banner ads. The ads are strategically placed and lead users to a mobile-optimized page where they can tap to buy tickets wherever they are. “Priscilla,” also implemented ads featuring Bette Midler, a producer of the show, and put her name on the theater marquee, hoping to draw from her celebrity. “Priscilla” producers even offered a money-back guarantee for several months.

1. Godspell

Godspell hasn’t done as well as one would hope, but it’s not for lack of effort. Producer, Ken Davenport started things rolling with an innovative method of gathering funds. He called the show The first ever community produced Broadway Musical. Davenport put out an open call for producers, affording everyone the opportunity to invest and giving a greater number of people keen interest in the production.

The musical also utilized a social media platform, that melded together old and new. It maintained the original vigor Godspell, while adding fresh elements. Davenport Theatrical Enterprises also was able to incorporate a well known passage into the social media campaign. The lyrics, taken from “Day by Day,” “To see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly” were repurposed as cues for YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Davenport also organized a flash mob held in Times Square. Check it out.