B’way bonus blitz

Theater ad thrust boosts discount strategy

One good campaign deserves another.

Broadway braces for a typical long, cold winter with what looks to be the second phase of its current I Love N.Y. Theater ad blitz. Serino-Coyne and Spotco, the marketing wizards that created that initial effort for the League of American Theaters and Producers, have re-joined to come up with potential “value packs” that will offer discounted theater tickets as well as marked-down parking, transportation, dinner and hotel accommodations for the months of January and February, two of the theater’s cruelest months attendance-wise.

“Right now, Broadway seems to be fine through Christmas,” said Drew Hodges, art director at Spotco. “What we, the league and Serino-Coyne are working on now is for the winter packages — ways to come into the city and get great parking, a place to stay, have dinner and see a show.”

Broadway traditionally offers deep discounts to several of its shows during the lean months of January and February. This year, many of those productions are already offering winter-sale prices in the typically heady B.O. month of October.

The challenge remains: how to keep tri-state theatergoers in the seats out of season after they’ve already paid half-price for two or three shows?

“For January and February, we’ve got to think out of the box,” said Nancy Coyne. “In this case, that means thinking back to a simpler time to put together the less expensive Broadway package of yesteryear.” The Serino-Coyne CEO estimated that an ideal winter 2002 package might include coupons for free parking, a $40 theater ticket, $30 dinner and $100 night at a hotel.

Both Coyne and Hodges called the proposed value-package plans “preliminary.”

Jan Svendsen, marketing director at the league, expressed optimism, but caution. “If it works, if we get it off the ground, we’re looking at the first week of January to introduce it,” she said of the new across-the-board discount program.

Coyne said it did not make sense to begin the program any earlier. “People don’t buy way out in advance,” she said.

Svendsen envisioned the value packages as a kind of menu that gives consumers a choice of shows, restaurants, hotels, parking and different forms of transportation. “We don’t know how it will be distributed,” she added, “whether it will be mailed or inserted in newspapers.”

The marketing director said the value-pack concept originated when an “unprecedented number of co-promotional partners,” such as restaurants and hotels, contacted the league after the events of Sept. 11.

According to Coyne, the original I Love N.Y. Theater ad campaign was geared to the tri-state area. “Now we’re pushing beyond that to also include Boston and Washington, D.C. We don’t have the money to talk to people in Cincinnati. The airlines have to do that part of the job. Hopefully, they’ll do it.”

After Sept. 11, Broadway’s B.O. quickly rebounded to where it is, only 8% under the record sales of October 2000, with New Yorkers returning to the Great White Way to make up for the plummeting tourist trade.

“I predict if this (the discount packaging) is successful for January and February, it will be done every year,” said Coyne.

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