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Product Placement On Broadway


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These days putting on a Broadway show is one of the bigger gambles in America's entertainment industry, with investments running into millions of dollars with little assurance of a return. It can take about two years for a successful show to pay back it's original investment, and only one out of five shows manages even that. The League of American Threatres and Producers maybe right after all.


Lets take New York for example, the prime home of American Theatre, given the dicey economics of the New York stage, especially for musicals, average in the range of $10 million to put on. It seems understandable that producers are becoming more creative in how to raise funds. In May of this year, Neil Simon's " Sweet Charity " tweaked a line of dialogue that referred to whisky and changed to tequilla after supposedly a waiter had approached Mr Simon with this line " Grand Centenario, the tequilla ". Well, lo and behold, Mr Simon agrees to the change, which mentions a sponsor, and the tequilla's logo decorates the set. This bold move came not long after Yahoo and Hormel Foods, maker of Spams, sponsored the triumphant Monty Python's musical " Spamalot ( a little side note, Mr John Cleese himself replaced as spokesman for a retail super market in England called J Sainsbury's, and was replaced by the blokish Jamie Oliver, a chef for the average Brit) and Turtlewax endorced the ill-conceived " Good Vibrations )


Now comes the next question, why all these marketing strategies for Broadway shows. The answer could be very simple, sly marketing have long inhabiited film and offcourse television to the dismay of the FCC, but the problem is the FCC is now taking the approach of " Is Nothing Sacred Anymore " attitude to the brandishing of brands on stage. Marketing companies claim to be exercising reatraint, afterall they're trying to find new avenues to promote products. No harm in that in a free market economy. The Market Group which is virtually in charge of marketing strategies for such Broadway shows as " Wicked " , " Avenue Q " , and offcourse " The Producers ", What this company says is that they search scripts for items that can be sponsored, usually done through a donation, contact businesses to arrange partnerships and product tie-ins. Here is my favourite example, Baz Luhrmann's " La Boheme " involved a deal back in 2003 with Montblanc, a maker of fine pens, to feature an antique company sign on stage in exchange for window displays and a special pen in Montblanc stores. Unfortunately this particular show ended up losing $6 million anyways.


In turn this begs the question, is commercialisation of Broadway or even the West End good to the last penny or will it destroy the creativeness of an idealist who needs the money and yet is forced to compromise on a particular idea because the financiers want a profit of return and therefore require that a product must be tied in to the production even if the idealist creator doesn't approve. Cant wait to see a concession stand of Twizlers being sold outside KA perhaps.


Along those lines, I recently saw KA with a really good mate of mine who has a brilliant anayltical mind on American Theatre. We compared notes and agreed that watching KA was a bit disappointing to say the least. It's even worse when some within the audience take bathroom breaks only to not come back at all. If this happens in every show that KA puts on stage, I would hate to be the finacier of this particular show. Perhaps someone should suggest to maybe add in some dialogue for the audience to understand and then perhaps a few more audience members may stay in their seats.


Forget BMW sponsoring Broadway, it may turn out to be Twizlers, Jujy Fruits and Red Licorice to keep Broadway alive and kicking. Yes, life is strange sometimes



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