Entertainment marketing agency trades off Bryan Cranston’s “Breaking Bad” star power in its campaign for the Tony Award®-winning drama.
The Broadway production of ALL THE WAY (produced by Jeffrey Richards, Louise Gund and Jerry Frankel) wrapped up its run at the Neil Simon Theatre on June 29th in spectacular fashion, playing to standing room only audiences and grossing over $1.6 million in ticket sales in its last week alone, an all-time record for a straight play. The packed houses served as a fitting crescendo for the show—which earlier won Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Bryan Cranston)—and for AKA NYC the entertainment marketing firm behind its innovative advertising and marketing campaign.
Written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Schenkkan, ALL THE WAY is a political drama about the passage of the Civil Rights Act during the Johnson Administration. Cranston, fresh from his Emmy Award-winning performance in the AMC television series Breaking Bad, starred as the 36th President. The show came to Broadway following a limited run last fall at Boston’s American Repertory Theater. It premiered in February, less than six months after the final episode of Breaking Bad aired on AMC.
To launch the production, AKA developed a multi-tiered advertising and marketing campaign including print, outdoor and web advertising, direct mail, social media outreach and a website. Serving as its centerpiece was a unique television ad campaign aimed at transforming some of Cranston’s legions of television fans into theater goers. “It was very much a television-driven strategy,” explains AKA Client Services Group Director Melissa Marano. “We wanted to introduce Bryan Cranston, whom television audiences knew as Walter White, as this new (real life) character, LBJ.”
AKA Broadcast Director Jamaal Parham and Executive Creative Director Bashan Aquart flew to Los Angeles in early December to shoot Cranston performing key moments from the play. Those became a carefully calibrated series of ads, the first of which broke on AMC just after Christmas during marathon screenings of Breaking Bad.
While trading on Cranston’s star power, the television spots also sought to draw viewers into the political intrigue at the heart of the play. “It has to be engaging,” says Parham. “You want people to want to be part of the story…you want to invite them to come along for the ride.”
“We made it a point to show people that this play was not a history lesson,” he adds. “Our references were House of Cardsand West Wing. It’s politics as entertainment.”
At the same time, AKA began to roll out a flurry of print, outdoor and web ads. A direct marketing campaign, aimed at established theater audiences, produced impressive results, generating a 300-percent return on investment. Analytical retargeting efforts through Google and Ticketmaster were even more successful, producing a ratio of ticket sales to dollars spent in excess of 10 to 1.
AKA’s social media campaign also produced ample dividends. Facebook and Twitter outreach ranged from historical information about the Johnson Administration to short interviews with Cranston and other members of the cast. One backstage encounter, where Cranston used Instagram to help a young fan arrange a prom date, went viral and generated press worldwide. “We’re top to tail,” notes Marano. “It’s marketing, it’s promotion, it’s analysis, it’s creative, it’s social, we encompass every facet of the marketing campaign.”
All of these efforts helped make ALL THE WAY one of the biggest success stories in recent Broadway memory. “It’s very difficult to acquire new patrons for a serious play, but we did that here,” concludes Marano. “It was accomplished through smart storytelling and the star power of Bryan Cranston. It was the right show with the right actor at the right time, which is to the credit of Producer Jeffrey Richards…and our collaboration with him to deliver the advertising campaign.”
AKA is a global, full-service advertising agency with offices in the U.S., UK and Australia. The AKA Group, including Digital Media Services and the film advertising agency The Creative Partnership, delivers creative, strategic and insightful campaigns to the entertainment industry worldwide.
The New York office, led by Elizabeth Furze and Scott Moore, delivers innovative solutions across media, marketing, partnerships, interactive, creative, broadcast, box office and ticketing, and campaign management, with a proven record for producing sales-driven campaigns for premium, must-see productions, venues, exhibitions and events.
Current and recent NYC clients include: 2014 Tony Award Best Play winner All the Way, 2012 Tony Award® Best Musical winner Once, Matilda The Musical, Rock of Ages, 2010 Tony Award Best Musical winner Memphis, A Christmas Story The Musical, Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, Queen of the Night, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Trip to Bountiful, The Glass Menagerie and It’s Only a Play.
For more information, visit akanyc.net