Entertainment Marketers of the Year

Kevin McCollum, 'The Drowsy Chaperone'

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Photo: Bruce Glikas
Producer Kevin McCollum and his team wanted to create buzz for "The Drowsy Chaperone," an original 1920s-flavored Broadway musical, when it opened last year. But without a hit movie or book or even a celebrity to help them, they turned to unconventional marketing.
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Teaser ads played off the "Man in the Chair" character and enticed Broadway bloggers to write about the play.

Mr. McCollum, co-founder of the Producing Office and winner of Tony Awards for "Rent" and "Avenue Q," hired Situation Marketing, New York, a digital specialist. Deciding word-of-mouth was key to its success, Situation contacted leading New York bloggers and offered them seats. "The Drowsy Chaper-one" was one of the first musicals to court bloggers with free tickets to great seats, says Damian Baza-dona, president of Situation. "Kevin McCollum is amazing; he's very open to new ideas," Mr. Bazadona says.

Another strategy was to promote Bob Martin, one of the show's writers, who plays the "Man in Chair" character, in radio and TV ads because he's known for his distinctive voice. "The Drowsy Chaperone" also used sly print ads to arouse interest in the play's name, which isn't exactly the title of a Broadway producer's dream. "We needed to play to our weakness," Mr. McCollum says.

One print ad read, "Sometimes you can just tell by the title that a show is going to be amazing. This is not one of those times." Broadway agency SpotCo handled the campaign. It even got a botched mention when talk-show host David Letterman called it "The Drunken Chaperone," Mr. McCollum says.

Newspaper, magazine and outdoor ads reflected the tone of "Man in Chair," he says. "We tried to make people laugh when they saw our ads," he says. He wanted to stop people with an awareness of the show's unfamiliar title. "Of course, you've never heard of us; it's completely original," he says.

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