As if the lady in red wasn’t enough, Presidente’s monthly letter in the concert program promises similar efforts, which were confirmed by the series of ads projected in all their stock photo glory on the big screens prior to Thursday’s ASO concert. The one for the next concert is already appearing on artsATL, “Scottish uncorked”. It makes the tenuous connection between Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3, referred to as the “Scottish”, and an anonymous hand decanting what I guess is supposed to be scotch but could also be chardonnay or an IPA. Does a bottle of scotch get uncorked? Do they even serve scotch at the WAC vending carts? If not, will they start? Or at least give free samples? Now there’s something that would boost attendance.
If the ads are intended to appeal to potential concert-goers who know nothing about music, how would they know the ad was about music? You only get it if you already are familiar with the reference, in which case what you would prefer is an ad that actually gives you some useful information.
But the worst of the ads was for Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet (coming up early February). A blubbering tear- and mascara-stained visage is shown in extreme close-up. It’s repulsive and if they have any sense they will go back to the shelved ad and won’t put the “different” ad out on the street. Can you say, "We run a major artistic institution but have no aesthetic sensibility?" Thanks, I knew you could. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’s a well-meaning attempt to emulate some of the minimalist ad art used for European opera and which is being successfully imported by the Met. But opera’s a different product, folks.
This obviously cheap and amateurishly-conceived ad “campaign” flips the bird at anyone with basic knowledge of the symphony concert experience. Whoever signed off on this deserves to sit through a loop of Anne Hathaway’s Les Mis performance for about three hours. And they need to stop looking for marketing concepts at the Love Shack. I’m sorry if that’s harsh, but this is the big leagues, not the promotion of the high-school musical.
Hey, they’re asking for feedback.
It's possible to inject humor into marketing and indeed it's very effective to do so. You want something that draws people in by making them say "I've never been to symphony but these look like fun people - maybe I should give it a try." A really cute spot could be a riff on "Gangnam Style", maybe with the ASYO, but there's an art to doing that kind of spot well, which means it costs money to execute it properly. I'm perfectly serious about this - NASA-Johnson did one that is hilarious but gives people a behind-the-scenes look at the Space Center and some of its personnel. It's humorous but in no way diminishes the integrity of what's behind it - which is most definitely rocket science.
Anyhow, how’s this for an ad campaign – you find several Atlanta-area visual artists (we have a wealth of them here). You give them the assignment to come up with ads for the season’s concerts and trade the exposure for their work for the ad art. If you really get creative (and are willing to work), you identify the artists through a competitive process and then eventually auction the art works used in the ads at a benefit event. Conversation about the symphony; their collaborative approach (no art form can afford to be an island in this town); the music and the related striking images occurs, along with heightened civic pride in our artists and arts organizations. People will support that on multiple levels. It’s synergy and everybody wins.