When the curtain rises for the off-Broadway play The Last Smoker in America on Aug. 2 at Manhattan’s Westside Theatre, a select group of Fordham students will be more familiar with the show than most.
Five students in the Gabelli School of Business (GSB) summer session marketing class, Consulting Project, were tasked with developing marketing tactics to promote the play to non-traditional theatergoers.
“I am so proud of our students. They always rise to the occasion, and in this case they did just did that,” said Janet DiLorenzo Ed.D., a lecturer of marketing in the schools of business.
In past years students in this class have consulted for groups such as the Hunger Project, The Point, and St. Barnabas Hospital. This was the first time they consulted for an off-Broadway production.
“There’s usually a problem that the client comes to us with, and the students have to come up with deliverables,” she said.
“It’s not just something where the students tell the client, ‘Oh yes, the way to fix this is to do research.’ Our students conduct the research. If they say we’re going to create a brochure, the students will create a brochure. It’s very hands on.”
As part of the five-week course, the students met for two hours with The Last Smoker in America director and producer Andy Sandberg, whose revival of the Broadway show Hair earned a Tony award in 2009. They were also invited to sit in on rehearsals for the play, a one-act musical set during a time when smoking is illegal.
The challenges the students were asked to address where twofold: first, tourists have a myriad of choices when it comes to plays to see; and, secondly, the average theatergoer is a woman between 40 and 70, which made it a challenge to lure the 18-to-24-year-old market.
Sandberg described the show as being “very timely and relevant, and about so much more than just smoking.” He said the student marketing group, which iincluded Rosen Toshev, Alejandra de Lecea, Cara McGonigle, Daniel Parker, and Hearim Bae, offered “really valuable insights into what might appeal to younger audiences, particularly students.”
“What was most intriguing about this group of students was that not all were theater fans, so they were able to look at the market objectively as they tried to identify what might make this show appealing to non-traditional theatergoing demographics,” he said.
Toshev, a transfer student from the University of London, said that among the advertising tactics they recommended to the production’s public relations agency was using flash mobs in crowded areas, such as Times Square and Edward’s Parade.
“We also suggested [using]cigarette girls to hand out flyers in Manhattan, an iPhone app that scans barcodes on flyers and provides information about the play, and an Fordham alumni event to attend the play and meet Andy Sandberg,” he said.
The class’ final product was a Powerpoint presentation of nearly 75 slides, which also featured some pricing schemes to augment promotions—such as $30 tickets for persons under 30.
DiLorenzo said it was a great example of teamwork.
“It was extremely exciting because were dealing with this amazing Tony award winning director/producer, an off-Broadway play, and [a chance for]the students to really be quite instrumental in some of their marketing decision making,” she said.