03 September 2007

Seth on cheap advertising:
Mysteriously, when the ads are cheap (think banners, or cable or AM radio), the content is lousy.

A SuperBowl ad costs a few million dollars to run... so the beer companies and the dot com companies spend millions creating the ad, even if it runs only once. [...]

There's no economic reason for this. You can run that banner ad in a thousand places. You can run that radio ad in 200 cities. If the media is cheap, it might just be a good value. And if you can run an effective ad, you can run it far and wide and turn a profit.
I don't think it's that mysterious at all. When it comes to a Super Bowl Ad, there is much more money at stake. With banner ads or AM radio ads there's virtually nothing at stake.

This is true for entertainment, as well. Compare your run-of-the-mill improv show with Broadway's Wicked. It costs virtually nothing to put on an improv show; very little is invested so oftentimes you literally get what you pay for: an hour or two of diversion. Meanwhile great piles of cash are shoveled into a BIG-TIME BROADWAY SHOW. A huge investment! Also a better bet than your local run-of-the-mill improv show.

It's not just the investment of capital, and here's where the mystery truly vanishes: The artists involved understand the scope. The improv show is playing to friends and family or die-hard improv fans or folks too broke to cross the street to see Wicked at the Pantages. A small pool. The artists involved in a BIG TIME BROADWAY SHOW know that there will be lines around the block. The artists have more at stake with a bigger audience and so bring their "A" game. As for the group playing to a dozen people, half of them comped ... there is a difference.

(HOWEVER, the Broadway show could be a crass, mediocre piece of crap performed by jaded jerks. The little improv show could have more heart and sheer talent on display than all the theatre palaces in the world. These are the exception to the rule. Not every improv is "The Kids in the Hall" back in the day, and not every Broadway musical is "Annie 2.")

The thing to do is to bring your "A" game regardless, to not settle for mediocre, to be remarkable. There was a little show in Hollywood that opened earlier this year titled "All About Walken." It's eight actors doing Walken impersonations in scenes and monologues. The show went up the the Gleason Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard -- I've performed on stage there myself, in a show that averaged five audience members each night. Just a hole-in-the-wall storefront theatre. Certainly not the Pantages.

This play -- a play that cost next to nothing to produce (i.e. no flying monkeys) that features eight people doing Walken impressions for crying out loud -- got major media coverage. The show was consistently sold out. These same eight actors could've just done a mediocre improv show, but they didn't settle for that. They brought their "A" game, and they flourished.

So that's the lesson to take away from all of this: Don't throw away any opportunity to be remarkable, no matter how "low rent" the venue.

[Also posted at www.madtheatrics.blogspot.com.]

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