Friday, January 22, 2010

The Morning Midway: Does Big Apple Circus Need Better Marketing? Just Ask Forbes ...

I've never exactly regarded New York's own circus as in dire need of cash, although a look at its masthead in the program magazine resembles an out-of-control bureaucracy. Perhaps pink slips to half the staff would bring instant solvency.

In fact, according to Forbes magazine, the economic downturn has hit BAC fairly hard, with the show discounting tickets to fill seats. "It has also had to initiate layoffs and pay cuts for its administrative staff. It is more important than ever for Big Apple, which advertises its shows through direct mail, traditional advertising and social media, to have an effective marketing plan."

So Forbes last September assigned a marketing interventionist (my term) to examine the operation inside and out and make voluntary recommendations. What Linda Sawyer, chief executive of the ad agency Deutsch, found was an organization that needs to better "trumpet its good works through communications and use of its media partners to make sure its audience knows about its community programs." Duh? New Yorkers don't already know? Forecasts expert Linda, "It might sway more people to chose its show over performances by rivals Ringling Bros. and Cirque du Soleil." I was not nervously aware of BAC having problems getting bodies into the tent.

Onward and downward: This might make better sense. Ms. Sawyer suggested that Binder's big top reduce the number of media outlets it employs, "picking the most effective ones and spending more money with them." She advocates "larger, more eye-catching ads." I'll agree to that; the small one they've been placing for several years in The New York Times featuring Grandma looks awfully threadbare and hand-me-down, especially for a New York show advertising in a New York paper. On the other hand, they may have reason to believe that the recurrence of this redundant design identifies their brand by subliminally appealing to the idea of Big Apple Circus as an annual holiday event.

Okay, one more Sawyer appeal, and this one I like. BAC should reward repeat visitors (Hey, that's me!) rather than just those who donate (that's not me) with some of the discounts or benefits offered the latter.

She also slights the circus's presence on the web, arguing they need to be more effective at reaching their target audience of moms and kids. The show was using only 1% of its ad budget on the Internet. Maybe she's onto something.

Now, Forbes & Sawyer, I have your next assignment: How Ringling-Barnum can get more bodies into the seats here in Oakland, as well as, I assume, elsewhere. They play to thousands more empty chairs than does their far smaller rival back there in Gotham.

Really, I'm serious. And after that, I've got a whole list of other circuses you need to take a look at.


J. Kurt Spence said...

You can sense that they are cutting back at BAC, although not in the ring and performance. I am a frequent paying customer and I also donate to help keep the BEST circus in America going. I did notice that in the past, BAC members and their visitors were given a red clown nose and button of the current production as a souviner. This year that was cut to only a red clown nose. Guess you gotta make cuts somewhere.

The BAC is still the most consistent and best traditional circus in America today. My wife and I attended a morning show recently in NYC, and unlike your experience, David, the show was not cut short and seemed to be the entire show. We enjoyed it very much!

Showbiz David said...

Thanks, Kurt. Maybe they only do the shortened shows on weekdays at certain dates. I still rue not having seen Grandma "singing in the rain"! That day, ironically, it was raining galore outside the tent.
You are lucky to have BAC nearby.