Diesel Fires Up New Cirque Campaign

LOS ANGELES A campaign by Canadian independent Diesel touting Cirque du Soleil’s new production at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand officially launched Thursday night with the show’s elaborate opening soiree, an agency representative said.

Ka is Cirque’s fourth Vegas fixture—and with a creation budget of $172 million, its most costly, said Diesel chairman-senior partner Bertrand Cesvet. The Montreal-based shop and avant-garde neo-circus have been marketing and development partners since 2001.

Advertising for Ka, including outdoor, print, in-cinema and Web components, focuses more on impact than frequency, according to Cesvet. Ads have already been running in Vegas, and were launched this week in “feeder” cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York; media is handled by Vegas independent SKG.

In a notable departure for Cirque du Soleil, the show “evokes masculinity,” with plenty of martial arts and pyrotechnics. Similarly, its ad campaign is meant to particularly target 35- to 54-year-old men, not yet a significant part of the company’s core audience, said Cesvet. Extensive reliance on the Internet is both cost-effective and expected to generate tremendous buzz, he said. Per Cirque, about 65 percent of show tickets are sold via its Web site.

“The language is very brash, very in your face,” said Cesvet, and the story line—involving themes of duality and the creative and destructive power of fire—is linear rather than Cirque’s previous, more poetic shows.

Diesel’s richly colored, oversized promotional posters for Ka are “a very different kind of advertising,” Cesvet explained. “You don’t advertise a Cirque show like you advertise a new car.” The creative, which he called “demanding,” was designed to build a strong presence for the show amid the cluttered outdoor ad environment—and differentiate it from other Cirque productions. This, Cesvet said, “is very, very hard to evoke in print, or anything else.”

He declined to provide campaign ad spend, but Cesvet admitted that Ka is the “most expensive show we’ve ever done,” and that Cirque dedicated more money toward marketing than it had for the opening of its third Vegas-based production, Zumanity.

Cirque had never needed a pricey advertising budget in the past, Cesvet said. “We used to own the entire [Las Vegas] market,” he recalled. That all changed in 2002, when fellow Quebecian Celine Dion opened her long-running music-and-laser spectacle, A New Day, at Caesars Palace.

“Celine came in spending $15 million on ads for her show,” Cesvet said. “The whole ad climate changed.”

Ka, scheduled to run twice daily, five days a week, has already sold the majority of tickets to its first three months of shows.