Why doesn’t theatre use adverts to increase revenue?

This blog is about theatre, you just have to read a bit of setting the scene first.

I have been watching bits of the Winter Olympics in Sochi on tv recently and noticed something which triggered my brain into action. Where is the advertising?

No coca-cola banners everywhere, no blow up Milka cow (the staple of downhill skiing), no Audi logos, no giant Ms arching across walkways and seemingly no advertising logos on competitor’s shirts. I seem to remember the London Olympics was full of these images blazoned across any surface available.

It is at this point that I must admit I saw absolutely none of the London Olympics, except the opening and closing ceremonies when walking past a giant screen in Edinburgh – yes I was at the Edinburgh festival running a venue, so completely missed the event. One day I will buy the DVD and have a proper patriotic look. But I have since seen extracts on the tv of bits of races and have noticed the sell out of sport to sugary drink suppliers.

Hang on a minute, this is a blog about theatre, yes, yes I am getting to the point, but let me talk about similar industries.

TV (except BBC who only advertise themselves) is full of adverts every 15 mins, commercial radio has numerous breaks for supporters, cinema has 20 mins of adverts before the feature starts but what about theatre?

A friend of mine was a tech on an ABBA sing-a-long touring show and they had a projector showing adverts before the show,
they displayed the lyrics for the sing-a-long on the screen and so the producers sold advertising space for pre-show.

Theatre programmes are no longer compulsory in my house, its full of advertising for restaurants for pre-show meals and other corporate nonsense and not enough about the actual production itself.

So why hasn’t theatre taken advantage of advertising revenue if we (the public) are so used to seeing KFC logos everywhere at events.

Why isn’t the proscenium arch lit up with burger king images, the orchestra pit could be sponsored by Npower,
the safety curtain could be the official partnered of DFS, costumes could be used to advertise Banks like football is.
Even the traditional old boys sport of cricket has logos on team shirts and on the pitch. Imagine a Shakespeare play with NATWEST logo painted on the floor of the graveyard scene of Hamlet.

Are we so scared of our efforts of trying to make theatre real that we actually make it appear unreal without advertising. Obviously shows that are not modern wouldn’t really stand up to adverts, I certainly wouldn’t want to see War Horse, for example, with Winalot Dog Food stuck on the side of the tanks.

But surely we are all so used to advertising that it wouldn’t make a difference, would it?

If theatre is struggling to stay alive in this recession filled world surely it would be better to keep it alive by selling out a tiny bit, rather than closing down, Music Hall became extinct due in part to cinema and TV (both use advertising)

Or should theatre be like the horse after the car was invented, just a play thing of the privileged and the hobbiest?

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