“I want to tell you a story.”  Like many comedians, Max Bygraves understood the power of the story to attract and keep an audience’s attention.

I discovered recently, having been involved in marketing a new shop, that the best window dressers describe their displays as ‘stories’.  Put simply, it’s that the colours, the props and the products themselves should work together to create an idea in customers’ minds.  This might be that certain dresses and accessories will go well together on a night out or perhaps ‘You can make your mum happy on Mother’s Day’.

In the marketing of entertainment, we too need to tell a story in order to sell tickets.  Fliers, posters or brochure covers communicate in the colours, the style and the words what the show or venue is about.  Bright colours put across fun and excitement- check out Grease’s signature pink.  Black and white suggest something sexy and sophisticated-  think of the consistent effectiveness of Chicago’s marketing even after all these years.

Then there’s the image.  As the old Chinese proverb says, ‘one picture is worth a thousand words’.  (Actually the saying was coined in the 1920s by Fred Barnard, an American PR man, who said it was an ancient proverb to give it more cachet.   Marketing people, eh?)

Love Me Do

We work in show business so we know how much appearance helps.    Brian Epstein took The Beatles out of their jeans and leather jackets and put them in suits and ties.  The story was, we may be revolutionary but we’re loveable and family-friendly too.

Pictures must tell the story of the show. I’m worked on a show called Tango! Tango!   The main publicity photo was a sensuous shot of an entwined couple, not on the dance floor but isolated in a cavernous space with one shaft of light picking them out.  It says everything about the all consuming passion of the dance in an otherwise cold world.

How pictures and text are arranged makes a big difference.  This is sometimes called design—  a concept apparently unknown to some promoters and venues!  In a good design, the eye will move around the advertisement in a journey that will keep the attention, focus it on the key message.  Most importantly, like those shop displays, the images will work together to say something about the show or venue.  The ‘story’ suggests to the customer what they will get out of it accompanied by the information about where and when it can be seen.

The most obvious way of telling a story is through words- whether in a press release, in brochure copy or in a mailing. They offer an excellent opportunity to talk at length about not only the plot but the backgrounds of the stars and what the customer will experience.   It needn’t take 200 words.  It can be done in an advertising slogan.  ‘Lie, Cheat, Steal… all in a day’s work’ said the poster for Glengarry Glen Ross, and that says it all.

‘Feel The Magic’ was a phrase I used.  It didn’t merit serious analysis for its meaning but ‘feel’ and ‘magic’ conjured up for the audience the appeal of going to the theatre.  OK, that’s a very short story.

Like Max’s stories, your words and images must grab the attention, keep them interested and lead to a punch-line, which in our case is another ticket sold.  That’s a good idea, son!