Atlanta's Alliance Theatre, which won the Regional Theater Award at the 2007 Tony Awards on June 10, also scored big with its recent promotion for a production of Cuttin' Up, "a play about the culture of African-American barber shops," as BBDO/Atlanta writer Phil Gable explains. "We created a low-budget guerrilla campaign based on a classic icon that figures prominently in the play ? the afro pick." The work included wildpostings, a special media night and, most notably, 5-foot-tall picks placed in bushes around the city. "A few of the picks were stolen, which was just fine ? several local TV stations covered the story," he says. The campaign boosted ticket sales to the tune of 60%, Gable adds. But how did the ploy play in this Imus-irritated cultural climate?
"We didn't hear any negative feedback at all," he says. "The client loved it, local DJs and TV news broadcasters had a lot of fun with it, and even more gratifying were the people who stopped, smiled and took pictures when we were out installing the giant picks, which turned out to be real crowd pleasers. The afro pick has a really fun, positive, retro kind of vibe associated with it, and people also responded to the inherent playfulness of making giant grooming implements. We're really pleased that even though the icon originated with one specific ethnic group, it was understood and enjoyed by people from all kinds of different ethnicities and backgrounds. The appeal was extremely broad, which is especially important in a city as diverse as Atlanta. When we went out to post flyers after the thefts, people told us how bummed they were that the picks were swiped."
Messing with vegetation was not an issue either, says Gable. "Local businesses were very cool about letting us use their shrubbery once they understood what we were trying to do. We were careful to place them in really sturdy bushes. No topiary was damaged in the making of this campaign."