Why buttons are a smart way to advertise for your show or play

Buttons from 3 shows that I’ve directed. They attract attention, and by extension, so does your show.

So you have a show coming up (which I do – see top left button). You’ve put an announcement in every newspaper (if your area still has newspapers), every local website, every arts website, your personal Facebook page, your show’s Facebook page, your Twitter account, your LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, Flickr, and Instagram pages. Great. But there’s one social network that you forgot – actual living human beings.

The people working on your show have a vested interest and a stake in the success or failure of the production. Why not put them to work? Buttons are a great way to get the word out about your show. Turn your cast, crew, and supporters into walking, talking advertisements.

What about t-shirts?

Shirts are great, but you can’t wear the same one everyday. I mean, you can, but for the most part you shouldn’t. It will start to stink after a couple of days. And then you’re just the guy that wears that nasty shirt. Of course, if you’re like most people, you’ll wear it once (or if you push it, twice), and then have to wash it. Which means that promotion for your show is limited to once or twice a week. Besides, everybody wears t-shirts, and a lot of people wear graphic Ts that only get a slight glance. Blending in is not great for promotion.

Why buttons?

Inexpensive. Portal. Adaptable. Eye catching.

A button can be worn every single day with almost any outfit. I wear mine with jackets, suits, t-shirts, dress shirts – anything really. They’re a fantastic accessory because they’re colorful (or should be). If it’s an interesting design, it attracts attention, and people will want to know what it says or means. That is your opportunity to talk up the show to anyone who will listen.

You essentially become a walking billboard. They work best if you’re doing a show locally and your cast and crew will be interacting and mingling with the potential audience members. But local shows can still pull in a few hundred people if advertised properly, so never discount them.

They’re also great souvenirs for the people who work on the shows, and excellent memorabilia for your personal home museum.

Cost is minimal. It’s usually a few cents per button, depending on which company you use. I just bought 100 for 38 bucks – that’s 38 cents per button. Sell them for $1 at the show, and you’re looking at a profit of $.62. So, and math isn’t my strong suit,  if I sell all of my buttons for $1, I make a profit of $62. If you add in the promotional value and the souvenir value (so they remember you – not to mention that every time your patrons wear it they’ll be advertising for you), the value continues to rise.

 What to remember:

    • Make sure they are eye catching and interesting.
      • It needs to attract attention so people ask about it.
      • You want it to be unique enough to wear after the show.
      • It should be colorful, with a simple design.

  • Put your website and/or the name and dates of your show around the outer ring. It won’t interfere with the design, and it publicizes your organization.
  • Shop around.
    • Find the best company with the best quality and the lowest price. I use wackybuttons.com. They have superior quality printing, my designs come out perfectly, and they ship very quickly – less than a week from order to doorstep. This may not be the company that suits you, so look at your options.
  • Give one – don’t sell one – to everyone in your cast and crew, their families, and anyone else that is involved with the show.
    • If each of those people get just one person to come to the show by way of button interest (I just coined a term), that value far outweighs the $.62 profit you’ll make by selling the button.
Have any other unique promotion ideas? Let me know.


The director’s nightmare

Image: worradmu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: worradmu / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I came upon this photo while boogie boarding on the interweb. It’s a simple, nondescript photo of empty theater seats, as viewed from what is clearly the stage area. Keep that in mind for later.

The playwright Christopher Durang has a fantastically funny and  surrealistic play called “The Actor’s Nightmare” (if you aren’t familiar with it, please check it out) in which a man stumbles on a stage and is forced to perform scenes from various classic plays without knowing his lines. It plays upon the actor’s greatest fear – forgetting, or not knowing, his lines while toe to toe with an audience. On stage, 30 seconds of silence feels like the equivalent of standing naked in Times Square for an hour.

I always have a similar nightmare before opening night (about the stage, not the naked Times Square thing). It doesn’t matter the size of the audience, the venue, the material, or the “formality” of the show, I can always count on this dream to haunt my slumber the night before we face an audience.

Here it is: I’m backstage, it’s opening night, and I haven’t looked out into the house. I get my actors ready. I get my crew ready. I get myself ready. Then, just before the curtain goes up, I peek my head out to look into the crowd and – nothing. Not a soul. Or, in some other incarnations of the dream, 1 or 2 souls. I always say that an audience is an audience; if they want to see the show, you have an obligation to give them the best show you can do. But there’s a good chance these two people are my ushers, who have seen the show, and are there to work. So that is not my audience. And I probably need to keep a better eye on my ushers.

So this is the director’s nightmare – the empty house on opening night.

I think the lesson here is promote, promote, promote! A little shameless promotion doesn’t hurt. Use social media to your advantage. Post a snippet of your show on You Tube. Post exclusive photos on Twitter. Interact with the community on Facebook.  After all, if you don’t want to tell people about your work, what message does that send?