You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

From ‘Rent’ to ‘Hamilton,’ SpotCo Founder on Broadway Marketing Campaigns

Back in 1996, Drew Hodges and the New York-based company he founded, SpotCo, were the brash upstarts in the insular world of Broadway marketing. Twenty years later, he has put together a book of SpotCo’s collected work, “On Broadway: From Rent to Revolution” (due in April from Rizzoli), looking back on a run that stretches from the opening of “Rent” to Broadway’s current ultrahot ticket, “Hamilton.”

You talk a lot in the book about what you call a show’s unique “event.”

The event can be really simple. The event can be Hugh Jackman. The event can be circus added to “Pippin.” It’s not a logline. It’s a little bit the elevator pitch, multiplied by word-of-mouth. It’s the reason I can genuinely transfer excitement to you.

How is selling a show now different from 20 years ago?

On “Rent,” you could make a poster, put it in the subway, and that was your brand. You could make a cool ad and then realize later what your message was — you could instinctively find your way into it. Whereas now, there are so many elements to be made as early as you can — print, online, television, broadcast, transit, sponsorship, anything. You have to be clear from the start what the story you’re telling is so that all those pieces can line up.

Selling “Hamilton” — easiest job in the world?

From the beginning, we thought “Hamilton” was so wide that the kinds of people who can love it are truly ages 7-70. So there was a real goal not to portray the show as this incredibly cutting-edge young thing, even though it is, in many ways. We wanted it to feel broader than that, and we very intentionally made that graphic to be kind of classic. I love that the metallic gold is appropriate for both 1776 and for Missy Elliott.

Why is defining the event so important? 

It sounds like an esoteric idea, but the reality is, the more we did it, the more we realized that even when you don’t do it, it happens anyway. If you don’t control it, people’s idea of the event will more often than not default to something you wish it hadn’t.

What’s the goal of a good Broadway poster?

You’re making an emotional promise. You’re not telling people what’s going to happen in the show; you’re telling people how it will feel to go. If an ad campaign sets up what the show is going to feel like, and then when you go, you get that.

More Legit

  • 'White Noise' Theater Review: Suzan-Lori Parks

    Off Broadway Review: Daveed Diggs in 'White Noise'

    Any new play by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog / Underdog”) demands — and deserves — attention. And in its premiere production at the Public Theater, her latest, “White Noise,” opens with a burst of brainy energy that lasts through the first act. But it takes a nosedive in the sloppy second half, [...]

  • Alexander Dinelaris

    'Jekyll and Hyde' Movie in the Works Based on Broadway Musical

    The Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde” is getting the movie treatment from Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris. Dinelaris, who is writing and producing the adaptation, won an Oscar for the “Birdman” script and was a co-producer on “The Revenant.” He is producing “Jekyll and Hyde” as the first project under his New York-based development company, [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Listen: The 'Balls-Out Theatricality' of Sam Mendes

    If you find yourself directing a Broadway play with a cast so big it includes a goose, two rabbits, more kids than you can count and an actual infant, what do you do? If you’re Sam Mendes, you embrace the “balls-out theatricality” of it all. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “There is a kind [...]

  • James Corden Tony Awards

    James Corden to Host 2019 Tony Awards (EXCLUSIVE)

    James Corden has been tapped to once again host the Tony Awards, Variety has learned exclusively. “The Late Late Show” host previously emceed the annual theater awards show in 2016, and won the Tony for best actor in a play for his performance in “One Man, Two Guvnors” in 2012. “I’m thrilled to be returning to [...]

  • Frozen review Broadway

    ‘Frozen’ the Musical Opening in London in 2020

    “Frozen” the musical is coming to London and will open in the West End in fall 2020. The Michael Grandage-directed Disney Theatrical Productions stage show has been on Broadway for a year. Grandage’s production is now set to re-open Andrew Lloyd Webber’s refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are behind the [...]

  • Nantucket Sleigh Ride review

    Off Broadway Review: John Guare's 'Nantucket Sleigh Ride'

    Anyone who doesn’t have a cottage on the Cape or the Islands, as they say in Massachusetts, might be puzzled by the title of John Guare’s new play.  “Nantucket Sleigh Ride” is no Revere Beach amusement park ride, but an old whaling term for the death throes of a whale that is still attached to [...]

  • Kiss Me Kate review

    Broadway Review: 'Kiss Me, Kate'

    No, Kate doesn’t get spanked. And for those wondering how the dicey ending of “Kiss Me, Kate” — that musical mashup of “The Taming of the Shrew” and backstage battling exes — would come across in these more sensitive times, well, that’s also been reconsidered for the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival of the Cole [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content