Darth Vader wears a size 16 shoe, which is murder on the cobbler when you add to the mix red patent leather by the yard, three-inch spike heels and some bling. Kinky boots, indeed.
Ticket buyers leave Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre feeling they got their money’s worth after the musical’s 20-minute balls-to-the-wall fight sequences, complete with spraying blood, clanging bells and the primal thunk of glove pounding flesh. How’d they do that? they wonder. Drew Hodges, the Broadway ad man who shook up the industry in 1996 with his mold-breaking campaigns for Rent featuring rough graphics, grimy looking punk photography and dare-you-to-see-this copy, entered the Tony Awards season this week with more game-changers that are separating the shows he represents from the sea of exclamation points and quotation marks that are the bread-and-butter of theatrical advertising.
Start with Rocky, which got middling notices on the whole but acclaim for Rocky’s championship fight with Apollo Creed. The ad for the show — a gritty photo of that climactic match — explains how the sequence was designed for maximum realism. A line from the photo leads to a box telling us, for example, that custom-made gloves were designed to allow the actors to land full punches without hurting each other.
Remember how Penn & Teller would open their act by telling us how magic tricks were done? It didn’t wreck the show. The same logic applies here. “You have to remind everybody how you are not like the others,” Hodges told me this morning at the midtown Manhattan offices of his company, SPOTCO. “Here, it’s not like we’re giving away a secret. The question is, Does the ad make them want to see it? Well, knowing things beforehand heightens the experience.”
Hodges and his group worked with Rocky director Alex Timbers to narrow down which effects to fit into the ad. “Alex gave us 20 ideas, and we may do another. It’s about the reality of the show, and people are loving that scene. The point is to freeze the moment.”
Producer Scott Rudin, who’s not connected with Rocky, sent Hodges a note calling it “the best ad of the season.”
“And no-one does shock and awe like Scott,” Hodges said, relishing the hat-tip. (more…)