A new business partnership has been announced. SpotCo, one of Broadway’s leading advertising and marketing agencies, and Level Forward, an award-winning ACLU-honored creative studio, will team up to provide marketing and social impact services as part of a new strategy for broadening audiences in film, television and theater.
After collaborating on multiple theater productions, most recently Broadway’s “POTUS,” SpotCo and Level Forward’s leaders discovered a business and social opportunity created by what they saw as a gap in messaging and marketing stories. “We have both come to the aligned fundamental conviction that we need a new approach to supply and demand — and certainly one that is more just and equitable,” Level Forward CEO Adrienne Becker told Broadway News.
SpotCo, a 27-year-old agency that specializes in live entertainment, specifically Broadway, has worked on such legacy shows as “Rent” and more recent award winners like “The Book of Mormon,” “Hadestown” and “Fat Ham.” Formed five years ago, Level Forward has produced films like “The Assistant” starring Julia Garner and the documentary “Body Parts” with Jane Fonda, and has also served as lead and co-producer on Broadway shows like “POTUS” and “Slave Play.” According to Becker, Level Forward operates from the guiding principle that “narrative storytelling is untapped at both delivering stakeholder return, which is the basis of business, as well as social good.”
Rather than pushing out ads and messages that can crowd an already noisy marketplace, the pair of businesses aims to excite potential audiences and capitalize on what pulls them in. (As Becker said, a show can offer discounted tickets, but in order for them to make any difference to a show’s success, there need to be people who want them.) On top of that, SpotCo and Level Forward want to combine great storytelling with social good for a more sustainable bottom line.
“POTUS,” for example, emphasized the play’s themes by creating a coalition of seven nonprofit organizations: Black Voters Matter, Center for Reproductive Rights, ERA Coalition, IGNITE, She the People, Supermajority Education Fund and Vote Mama. Each organization was engaged with the show before it played a single performance. The organizations had the script and could even offer input according to what they knew would be in sync with their supporters and, in turn, the target audience for “POTUS.”
These seven organizations helped create a show that would resonate with ticket-buyers, and the nonprofits became organic ambassadors for the show. SpotCo and Level Forward also created the “POTUS” rally in Times Square — merging a show-themed event with coalition-driven action.
It’s an entirely new way to conceive audience development.
“Understanding the essence of a production and to whom its content speaks is important for any agency, but knowing how to authentically engage with and design content that will resonate with said audience is what’s needed to cultivate the audience of the future,” said India Haggins, SpotCo’s account director and head of audience inclusion and engagement, in a statement. “We are thrilled that this partnership will provide the proper resources to achieve this.”
Those resources include access to the companies' New Supply and Demand Toolbox, proprietary research, joint audience development services, creative content development, messaging, event activations and positioning informed by community leaders and experts. The partnership’s newly launched research panel, called See Forward, will offer fresh data and insights. Clients will also be able to consult the Level Forward Impact Advisory Group (comprised of experts from a range of nonprofits) and the Storytelling for Social Good workshop (co-created by Level Forward and Broadway Advocacy Coalition).
Most of all, SpotCo and Level Forward want to build trust with audiences, engage stakeholders and deepen the conversations that they believe theater — and all storytelling — can spark.
Becker offered a poignant insight on the benefits of the partnership. “An audience member walks into any show and her eyes are opened to something that she didn’t quite connect to or understand before,” Becker said. “It’s a little window that cracks open and she talks about it with her friends, her partner and then Monday starts; over time, that window starts to close.”
“Ultimately the payoff is it just stays open,” Becker continued. “At that point, this person has been changed and is now mobilized.” That audience member becomes an ambassador for the theater and an activist for change.