OnStage New York Columnist
Chances are you’ve seen many of Steven Tartick’s campaigns in your Twitter feed or in banner ads for your favorite musical. He’s the Creative Director of Digital at SpotCo, a full-service advertising agency specializing in live entertainment. Tartick and his colleagues Stacey Lieberman-Prince and Stephen Sosnowski hosted a panel at BroadwayCon where they examined how they built the Tony-winning brands for the past three Tony Award winners for Best Musical: “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” “Fun Home,” and “Hamilton.”
He caught up with OnStage after the panel and discussed ever-changing social media trends, advice for aspiring advertising professionals, and the unforgettable “Just Pee” video starring the cast and creative team of “Kinky Boots.”
What’s your single key message?
Everything is about intent. When we sit down to create an ad or a tweet or a billboard, we spend a lot of time thinking about who will see it and what we need to specifically convey to that person and exactly how to do it — it’s all about intention. If we go into a project and just throw the spaghetti against the wall, it just doesn’t work. It has to be very thoughtful. That’s what goes through my head on any project.
Was advertising always your calling?
How did you get your start?
I went to school for new media and media was part fine arts, part technology and digital media. I’ve always been a big tech geek… I’ve always loved design, theatre, and politics. Those are the things I’m most passionate about. Advertising became one way of combining a handful of those into one career that put me in the industry that I really cared about and also applied my skills in a way that was most fitting for the type of work I was looking for.
Social media trends are always changing. How do you decide which social channel to focus on?
That’s a really great question! It ties back to the key message of intent. Every show has a different audience, and the truth is that at this point, most audiences are everywhere. There were times that you would say, “Oh, this is a Twitter audience, this is a Facebook show.” When we choose where to spend our time really comes down to whom do we specifically need to reach. Do we think that there’s a higher proclivity for that sort of person to be in one platform or another? I’ll use Facebook as an example.
We have stats that say 76 percent of ticket buyers have active Facebook accounts. Most people think Broadway ticket buyers are old and don’t own computers — not true. Three-fourths of our ticket buyers are using Facebook daily, so sometimes we spend a lot of time thinking about knowing our traditional theatregoers on Facebook. How are they using Facebook that’s different than the way we are? How do we make content and campaigns that they can interact with and they can feel a part of that also don’t have such a high barrier of entry that’s going to drive them away? When we worked on a show like “Motown,” our average age for a Facebook fan was 65, which is pretty impressive when you think about it and the average age on Facebook is a lot younger than that. What it meant though was that we didn’t ask people to do complicated tech things. We didn’t ask people to jump through hoops the way we would for a show like “Amélie” where the average age is much younger and who are willing to go further to participate.
You worked on both runs of “Motown.” If you implemented the same strategies that worked the first time, what can you attribute to the show’s quick closing the second time?
I think the interesting thing about Broadway as a landscape is that it’s constantly changing. It’s never the same and that impacts shows in all sorts of ways. The summer audience for a show is very different from the winter audience. The local New Yorkers spend their weekends in the Hamptons, so the number of New York attendees goes from a much higher number down to 10 percent during the summer. The immediate climate becomes more of less difficult to pierce through. When you think of last summer, everybody was in the thick of the primary campaign. There are all sorts of things that are happening in the world that can impact a show. It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific element that worked or didn’t work. Certainly, a brand can be very successful one month and not successful on the other.
Which campaign are you most proud of?
This was an effort that crossed our social media department, our copywriting department, the press office, and the producers for “Kinky Boots” earlier last year. When the HB2 law passed in North Carolina, it really impacted the creative team of the show and they felt very moved to take action and a conversation started between the press office, the creators of the show, and us about how “Kinky Boots” could address the issue. This led to a really incredible brainstorming conversation and the idea that we would release a video that showed our support for inclusivity and we created “Just Pee” the parody of “Just Be.” We made it very quickly. It was from idea to full, final video in less than two weeks. We published it on a Friday in the afternoon, which isn’t an ideal time to post, because we just wanted to get it out there.
When we checked back in half an hour, it was seen by 150,000 people, then 300,000, and finally reached up to 17 million impressions. It became part of the cultural landscape for a hot minute and brought attention to the show, but most importantly, to an issue that needed it. That’s one that felt good to make and was an incredible success.
Any advice for young people looking to work in advertising?
Work, work, work. Work on anything they can. I’ll tell you my entry point story as means of leading to this. I knew how to do design and edit videos. I had all the technical skills. I couldn’t get work because, you know, it’s a very small industry and very few people work in advertising on Broadway.
My first job out of school was at the 5th Avenue Apple Store and while I was there, I met a group of theatre creators who wrote a show that they wanted to produce. We sent in an application to the Fringe Festival, it was produced there, and I did all the marketing. I met Jason Eagan who’s the Artistic Director at Ars Nova he saw the show and liked the show, he liked the marketing, and through an artistic director attending the show, that’s how I actually got my first theatre job as a marketing manager at Ars Nova. So all to say, that there are so many opportunities, there are thousands of shows produced a year in New York. They all need marketing; they can’t all afford the big agencies.
People who are passionate about theatrical advertising should look for any show that needs help at all and just do the work because nothing teaches you more about marketing than putting your money where your mouth is. Getting into it and trying things, seeing what works and what doesn’t, and having a portfolio of things that lived in the world is always better than a portfolio you made in class.
Is there anything you would like to address that we haven’t discussed? Thank you for your time!
I’m so impressed by BroadwayCon! I think it’s such an amazing happening for the whole industry and it’s useful, particularly for producers, to see how passionate the next generation of theatre multibuyers is.