More On Orchestra Video Ads

Neo Classical author Holly Mulcahy authored a guest post at Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc entitled Can You Sell An Orchestra On TV? Don Draper Can. that uses a recent TV spot from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) as a jumping off point for conversation. Mulcahy approaches the perspective by shifting the focus more toward the audience than the experience.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-145It made me recall an effort from the League several years ago that generated a series of video spots geared toward promoting live orchestra concert events in general that approach the topic via the audience-centric perspective (if anyone recalls the effort or has a link to the original resource website, thank you in advance for posting the info in a comment).

If memory serves, the effort was more like the SLSO spot than not; imagine the exact same approach but with video of the audience rather than performers. In short, it felt more like an instructional video for how to behave at an orchestra concert than something transformative the fictional Donald Draper would craft.

Consequently, efforts like this seem to miss the point Mulcahy is making and I’m curious to know what you think; not just about Mulcahy’s article but the SLSO spot and video advertisements in general.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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3 thoughts on “More On Orchestra Video Ads”

  1. Holly makes, as usual, many excellent points in her article. The SLSO spot seems to me to be more a public awareness effort (“Yes, Virginia, St. Louis has a symphony orchestra.”) than something designed to actually get butts in the seats. No one actually experiences a concert from these camera angles other than the musicians themselves. Some of the comments to her original article are spot on including discussion of appropriate programing choices. It might be more productive to show an orchestra and audience having fun first to entice the casual attendee, and then let the transformative experience in the hall (when it happens) close the deal for repeated attendance.

  2. In my opinion, the SLSO’s attempt at a TV spot makes one, major misstep. It assumes the viewer knows nothing about classical music. Would, for example, the Rams and Cardinals produce a commercial about baseball and football?

    Of course not. One would watch such a spot with at least a rudimentary understanding of the rules of both sports. No one is asking “I wonder what the Rams are playing on Sunday” or “Is baseball right for me”? (And, frankly, I don’t need the SLSO’s highest paid employee telling me “you can’t live without it.”)

    Everyone knows Beethoven and Mozart; not everyone knows why, when the SLSO performs Beethoven, Mozart, and, for that matter, Cage and Turnage, it’s “better” than someone else’s interpretation.

    The content, as such, is irrelevant. The main point is how the content is delivered.

    (Notwithstanding the jab above,) Robertson (plus nearly 100 of the world’s most talented musicians).

    The SLSO’s commercial is telling us how and what to enjoy, but not who is making the performance so good and why it is so. It looks and feels more like a PSA for classical music than an ad for the world-class excellence of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. It completely ignores the SLSO brand.

    I’m not sure how you translate “why” to TV, but I do think it’s OK to make some assumptions about your audience’s basic musical knowledge and I think you have to start your commercial concept with “who is performing,” not “what is being performed.” After all, the SLSO, unlike the Rams and Cards, win every single time they play.

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