Ballet Wants to ‘Move’ Younger Demographic

NEW YORK The American Ballet Theatre has debuted a $3 million image campaign from Ziccardi Partners Frierson Mee that casts the dance company in a more contemporary light.

Four black-and-white print executions feature ABT dancers in period costumes sitting on scaffolding as well as close-ups of elegantly outstretched arms, a male dancer’s athletic torso and a bare-backed ballerina cradling her bosom while dancing on point. The accompanying copy attempts to underscore the dramatic photography as well as the ballet’s storytelling. One ad states, “A step of this foot leaves two lovers dead.” Another execution says, “A twist of these hands will poison heaven.” The tagline: “Welcome to the American Ballet Theatre’s spring season. ABT. It moves you.”

“Entertainment marketing tends to be not very strategic,” said John Frierson, a partner at the New York agency. “It’s usually some posters and direct marketing.”

The ABT decided to move beyond that method this year, as the economy continued to erode ticket sales across entertainment venues, Frierson said. In the past, the client had advertised each show individually but had never put forth a branding effort, said agency partner Heather Mee.

“Their ads were very traditional, very straightforward,” Mee said. “We wanted to break down people’s barriers to ballet. To say, ‘This is not just about tutus and tights, this is a powerful experience that will move you.'”

Rather than targeting the ballet’s traditional audience, older patrons and aficionados of the arts, the campaign takes aim at younger set, Mee said. According to the U.S. Census, young adults ages 18-24 is the fastest-growing segment in arts attendance. The “Be moved” campaign aims to change people’s perception of the company from stodgy to sensual, Mee said.

“We wanted to really make it aspirational, but also accessible,” she said.

In addition to the four umbrella ads that broke in April issues of New York publications, the shop will produce similarly themed ads for the company’s eight productions this season. One ad for Don Quixote urges readers to “Be moved to do something crazy for love.” Another, for Romeo and Juliet, reads, “Be moved to stop listening to your parents.”

A single television ad will break on April 21 on local news programs and cable stations, said Frierson. Radio spots airing on classical and adult contemporary stations will support the effort from April through June.