Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
BalletNut

Dumbed down advertisements

28 posts in this topic

While combing through the paper a few days ago, I came upon an ad for SF Ballet's 2001 Season. It showed a pose from The Prodigal Son, with the caption "Drinking. Debauchery. A Real Bible Story." Now, I understand the need for attracting younger audiences to the ballet, especially given that the average age of SFB's audience hovers around 60, give or take a few. However, an ad campaign like this, however well-intentioned, is not the way to go. I am not trying to speak for my whole generation, but, being fairly young myself, I found them an insult to my intelligence. It isn't the ads themselves that bother me, but the idea that the only way to attract young whippersnappers is to talk down to them. And, judging from what I hear, the marketing of ballet in this matter seems pretty widespread--Atlanta Ballet's pushing R&J by saying "two ballet dancers die, what more could you want?" springs to mind. Since when does young equal ignorant?

So, am I overreacting, or is this offensive to other people too?

Share this post


Link to post

BalletNut, I don't think you are overreacting at all! Those are both dreadful ads, from the sound of it, and I don't feel that is what is needed in order to attract the interest of the younger generation. Of course my exposure to young people is primarily with ballet students, but their level of knowledge and sophistication is generally far better than ours was at their age, and talking down to them is not the way to go.

Share this post


Link to post

I think add campaigns like that are very damaging, but also very typical. Here in New York, though, the recent add campaign (program covers, bus adds, etc.) have gone a different, almost worse route. The adds are soft focus shots of mainly unrecognizeable dancers doing anything but dancing. Little nymphets leaning passively, yet suggestively against a wall. And as someone pointed out, resolutely multicultural. The few minority dancers must spend all their time in photoshoots! It is hard to imagine anyone really enjoying ballet if they bought a ticket due to those adds. And of course Prodigal Son is so much richer than the add suggests--it is so unfair to the artists.

Share this post


Link to post

and the person at p.r. or wherever at boston ballet a few years ago that decided that the audience wouldn't understand a ballet called 'le corsaire' so titled it "the pirate" in advertisements with 'le corsaire' in parentheses.....

Share this post


Link to post

If the younger generation really wanted ballet, this would not happen. Most young people aren't going to spend a Friday night with their friends at the ballet, are they? Trying to attract them with MTV or Hollywood styled ads is getting to be ridiculous. There is no need for this. If we just assume that these people are intelligent, as they probably are, then we can attract them with more classic adds. Lets see: What about an add with the original title of the ballet, with the company's name, and that actualy has a picture from the ballet?! Wouldn't that be wonderful? smile.gif

Share this post


Link to post

I rather like those soft-focus Kolnik pictures for NYCB. I have his first poster, of Danna McBrearty and Eva Natanya (ethnically diverse?) backstage (I think) in their costumes for Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3, and I think they look beautiful. Angelic, even, While I think his recent one of dancers in costumes from Brahms-Schoenberg, with one in a pretty first postition in the bough of a tree, was a bit much, I've enjoyed his others of dancers in recognizable NYC locations (although not landmarks, as with their recent poster series -- one of which immortalizes Damian Woetzel in that Prodigal Son leap in front of the Ugliest Statue in the World at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine). I rather like the one of Rachel Rutherford and I forget who else holding up one of the Central Park walls. The ads and posters are clever and pretty ways of reinforcing the comany's connection to NYC (in more than just its name) and I like them fine.

Share this post


Link to post

I really liked the earlier series, with dancers in recognizeable ballet positions, especially the Darci Kistler Swan Lake one, but the recent ones seem just vapid to me, barely related to ballet at all. And certainly not designed to convey to the public what a night at NYCB might be like.

Share this post


Link to post

One of the things I love about doing Ballet Alert!, the newsletter, is the season's preview feature I put together every year. In addition to collecting press releases sent to me, I check every company that has a web site. Every time I think I've found THE most hilarious or outrageous or offensive advertising, two clicks away there's something worse -- or better, depending on one's move.

This year, my very favorite was the "Murder and Mayhem" double bill one company was touting. The ballets? Balanchine's "Chaconne" and "Slaughter."

I could only figure that "Slaughter" was the Murder part, and the way they danced "Chaconne" must have been the "Mayhem" part. The copy for "Chaconne" was sobering, too. I'm paraphrasing, but it went something like, "First, there's a beautiful pas de deux. Then a pas de trois. Then many dancers enter. . . ."

BalletNut, great topic. I'm glad you raised it. Another theme I've noticed, obviously in the attempt to appeal to both sides of what is presumed to be the ballet audience -- the ballet moderne fans and the storybook fans -- I've seen dozens of companies, including some of the larger ones, with schizoid ads: a ballerina, all rosy in her pink tutu (with tiara and toe shoes) juxtaposed with a half-naked, snarling man in a spread eagle leap. Opera's lookin' good.

Share this post


Link to post
Originally posted by Mme. Hermine:

and the person at p.r. or wherever at boston ballet a few years ago that decided that the audience wouldn't understand a ballet called 'le corsaire' so titled it "the pirate" in advertisements with 'le corsaire' in parentheses.....

I assume that the ad was placed by Le Flack.

Share this post


Link to post

Much of what has been quoted above sounds absurd, but translating the title of a work seems like a legitimate ploy...How many of us -- even hard core ballet fans -- think of "Casse Noissette" as our holiday ballet tradition? Certainly the movie adaptation of Liasons Dangereuses (an English play based on a French novel) must have pulled a bigger audience by translating the play's title to Dangerous Liasons.

I do think, though, that some of the NYCB ads verge on soft-core porn, and it truly irritates me when I see one of them...

Share this post


Link to post

I agree about the NYCB ads, I liked them much better when they actually featured dance positions! The new ones just remind me of Calvin Klein commercials. And I especially don't like the image of the young women in them; the women seem so inviting and lacking in personality-- it's pretty jarring when you see how fearless and strong they are on stage!

Share this post


Link to post

Translating the name of the ballet really isn't too horrible as long as the meaning isn't changed. Most ballet titles come to the U.S. and U.K. in English. The Tchaikovsky ballets were all translated from the Russian. It never has detracted from the work. It is only so the majority of the audience can understand what the title means. What is wrong with that? I do not not consider the fact that most people don't speak the native language of where the ballet came from to be ignorance. It is just that we haven't grown up speaking that language, and the title is translated to whatever we speak.

Share this post


Link to post

Has there been ANY market research on the effectiveness of these ads. I would think not, the marketing budgets for most companies being what they are.

I would assume, though, that not one person has purchased a ticket to a ballet based on adverts that feature murder, mayhem or anything of that nature.

Here in Motown, where plenty of ridiculous ads have originated, the Michigan Opera Theatre seems to have the right idea. Their slogan and tagline is "Think. Feel. See an Opera"

Share this post


Link to post

Hi folks....bummed out about advertizing?

I remember an episode of Abosultely Fabulous where an expectedly drunk Edwina rants and raves about her own PR business to the tune of something that says "You've attached everything that's good and wholesome and beautiful in the world to some toilet cleaner!"

Thank God that the adverizers and PR people are attaching something to that's good and wholesome and beautiful, namely ballet and dance, in an effort to bring more people into the theatres!

Whatever may help to sell ballet and dance, I'm for it!

DancingDoc

Share this post


Link to post
Originally posted by Ed Waffle:

Here in Motown, where plenty of ridiculous ads have originated, the Michigan Opera Theatre seems to have the right idea. Their slogan and tagline is "Think. Feel. See an Opera"

Ed, you've renewed my faith in advertising. I hope this attitude spreads.

Share this post


Link to post

Not to defend any particular advertising, but different types of ads will appeal to different people. The target isn't, or shouldn't, be the balletomanes. Ads should entice new people into the door.

Cliff

Share this post


Link to post

I am inclined to agree with Cliff. It would be nice if the most effective advertising were invariably the most intelligent advertising, but such is not the case. Those of us of a certain age will recall the "Please don't squeeze the Charmin" TV campaign, which involved someone named Mr. Whipple trying to prevent shoppers from lustfully massaging the toilet paper, and drove a sizable number of TV viewers half insane with irritation. Everyone jeered at those ads, and Charmin's sales skyrocketed.

In defense of SFB, it must be allowed that parts of the Bible are chock full of good old fashioned sex and violence....

[This message has been edited by dirac (edited February 24, 2001).]

Share this post


Link to post

To the points raised by Cliff and dirac, yes, ads should appeal to a wider audience than balletomanes, but then we get into the argument of what you're selling, and what, if anything, it has to do with ballet. Make a poster with two naked women wrestling in mud or jello, and you could undoubtedly attract thousands, but it wouldn't be for ballet. Advertise a human sacrifice at 9:00, and you would attract even more.

It's not a question of the ads being unseemly or that there's sex and violence have no place in art. And the much larger question is, as was posted, the dumbing down. Nah. I hope Ed's opera ads are a trend.

Share this post


Link to post

I have noticed this in ad phenomenon - and all I can say is if people need this kind of ad, then it is a sad state of society. For example, the opera advertisements in Dallas have been abominable, to the point of unmentionable. I hesitate to say that everything in this world has been won over to media sensationalism, but it seems that even ballet is not exempt from playing on people's fascination and desensitization to violence etc. This is a sad state indeed.

smile.gifsmile.gifLauren

Share this post


Link to post

I haven't noticed the phenomenon so much with ballet - but the NYC Opera does it all the time. No naked ladies (or gents), however! Perhaps we could start a thread with "dramatic ads". If it weren't nearly 3 a.m. I think I could come up with some rather amusing ones. I don't think one need go as far as "Hot sex and slaughter in the insect world" (The Cage)

Share this post


Link to post

When people think of ballet, they think of a woman in a white tutu - not sex, or violence, and certainly not mud-wrestling. How these people come to associate these things in their ads, I don't know. However, there is no one to say that these things have no right to be in ballet.

It's like Alexandra said, it's the dumbing down - not the bad ideas - that needs to be dismissed. These ads talk to people as if they had no sense of anything at all. No one likes to be talked to like that, especialy if you have a very good sense of everything! smile.gif Ballet-goers tend to have good sense. We know what is wrong and what is right. We know that sex can be vulgar, or it can be fun. We know what we expect to see in ads for ballet, and it isn't what has been discussed here, to be sure. Why would a person who would like to see 'two ballet dancers die' go to the ballet, at all? The group of people these ads apeal to will probably not enjoy what they find on-stage.

Also, bringing back BalletNut's young = ignorant question. Young does not equal ignorant. It's just that the vast majority of young people don't know what they make themselves out to be. Television and music have played a real part in this. You must admit that most of the young people who watch TV aren't going to turn to PBS for ABT at the Met. Most of them go to things that relate directly to violence and sex. The advertising groups see this and they think, "If we can make it seem like ballet is what's on TV, then we'll attract twice as much young people." I, personaly, don't think this advertising idea is realistic, but that's the case for many people. It is, anyway, a matter of preference. No one can help it if they prefer something over something else. All of us chose to like ballet, and is it our 'fault?'

~ Auvi

I want a name, not initials. So, that's my first name. I felt left out and awkward with everyone here have a name, or a word to be called by, and me with only two letters.

[This message has been edited by ~A.C~ (edited March 02, 2001).]

Share this post


Link to post

It could be worse... instead of the adverts, the performances could become softporn. And perhaps include gory violence.

Many performance artists (one-person theater) in New York make nudity a staple of their shows. It has shock value and probably helps make sales, but doesn't necessarily fit in with their work. Even some talented performers find an excuse to take their clothes off. I found postcard ads featuring a naked person especially irritating.

(Things may have changed since the mid 90s when I went to these shows.)

I've seen several small modern dance companies use nudity in performance, seemingly with little or no artistic reason. Very distracting sometimes, taking away from the performance. But perhaps good marketing.

Share this post


Link to post

What's appropriate for performance art may not always be appropriate to ballet. MichaelB, we keep this section of the board for classical ballet performances and issues related thereto.

Share this post


Link to post

If young people--or any people, really-- don't like ballet, no hip-talking ad will change their opinion of it. Using a terrible analogy: you can call brussels sprouts M&Ms if you think it'll make people like them more, but it won't fool anybody into actually eating more brussels sprouts.

[This message has been edited by BalletNut (edited March 04, 2001).]

Share this post


Link to post

One of the worst ad taglines is reported from Dallas in an opera list. It is for Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor"--for those not familiar with this work, it begins with Lucia weeping at the grave of her mother and gets more fraught from there. The climax is a great mad scene which takes place immediately after the title character has stabbed her new groom to death on their wedding night. She falls dead at the end of the mad scene.

Great opera. It has wonderful music and great roles for several singers.

The tagline reported from Dallas is "There's no doubt about it: Life Before Prozac was harsh"

Which is one of the first I have encountered that has EVERYTHING wrong with it.

At least the one reported initially in this thread by BalletNut shows an attempt, however misguided to get people interested in going to the ballet. This one seems want to turn tragedy into a panic attack--not a good reason to go to the theater.

------------------

"Happy are the fiery natures which burn themselves out,

and glory in the sword which wears away the scabbard:

CAMILLE SAINT-SAENS

Writing of Pauline Viardot

[This message has been edited by Ed Waffle (edited March 06, 2001).]

Share this post


Link to post
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0