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Broadway Now Bartering With Marketers

Product placement in the movies has been around since 1951 when Bogart and Hepburn starred in the classic, The African Queen. Hepburn�s dumping of Gordon�s Dry Gin overboard was the beginning. Film legend Joan Crawford carried the torch forward in The Caretakers, when she came head-to-head with a Pepsi trade show display at a psychiatric-ward picnic.

Now the theater, the oldest form of entertainment, is bartering with marketers to monetize their unusual draw...affluent attendees. (Theatergoers� average annual household income is $96,100.)

In the 2005-06 season more than 12 million saw Broadway shows, spending $862 million on tickets. And millions more see off-Broadway shows, as well as traveling and regional productions.

Trading Can Help Offset Costs

Broadway producers spend $165 million on expenses for new productions, as a Broadway musical can run between $10 million and $15 million to produce.

One way to lessen the cost is product placement, where marketers barter their products in exchange for exposure. Producers see such trading efforts as a viable way to offset the costs of play props and opening-night parties.

Evian, for example, supplies bottles of water for use as props. In return the firm gets the on-stage exposure as well as credit in Playbill, the pamphlet that theater ushers give to each audience member.

Some marketers have provided live commercials. The tourist group Visit London produced short pre-show skits for theaters that encourage people to visit the British capital. Participating theaters were then promoted on its web site.

Sprint tied in with an off-Broadway production about scheming stockbrokers in a barter agreement, providing cellphones and PDAs as props. Spirits marketer Jose Cuervo worked with Playwright Neil Simon wherein a character drink their tequila instead of scotch.

Fruit drink Snapple made its off-Broadway debut with the Snapple Theater Center in Times Square. Other stage-naming rights include the American Airlines Theatre and the Cadillac Winter Garden Theatre.

Novelists Bartering Between The Lines, Too

Product placement popping up in novels? Yes, according to Jane Smiley, an author of many novels. Her most recent work is titled Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel.

Smiley says writer Sean Stewart and his book packager, Jordan Weisman, have added a little product placement in the novel for adolescents they will soon be publishing.

As a result of their willingness to alter a few details for Cover Girl cosmetics, they�re getting advertising and promotion space on a web site directed at adolescent girls. In addition, the initial print-run of their book has burgeoned from 30,000 to 100,000.

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