Bright Lights! Big City! Poster Printing!

The intricacies of campaigning on Broadway…

Poster design is a complicated process, and the higher the stakes, the more complicated it gets. Sometimes, a client simply needs one great image for a short-run print campaign that's not going to involve any other elements. Other times – whew! – things get a bit more serious.

For example…

The New York Times recently published an article on the process of designing a poster for a Broadway show. They spoke to Drew Hodges, chief exec over at SpotCo. Entertainment Advertising (recently in the news for their racy portrayal of Miss Piggy). SpotCo. created the print ad for a new run of the famous musical, La Cage Aux Folles, on Broadway.

The criteria for the poster? Where to begin….

  • It had to be funny and sexy, but not just funny or just sexy, because viewers have to get a strong sense of all the things that the musical is about.
  • It also couldn't be TOO sexy, because the producers don't want to alienate out-of-town-audiences coming to the Big Apple to see a Broadway show. In other words, the musical about drag queens doesn't want to freak out the Nebraska tourists, who will run over to The Phantom of the Opera in seconds flat if they get startled.
  • It had to be loud enough to compete with the cacophony of advertising on Broadway and on Times Square, but it also couldn't be too edgy, or too “cool.” Producers didn't want viewers confusing their print campaign with an ad for a nightclub.
  • It had to be simple enough to make an impact at a distance. Clever little details are great, but when it comes to poster advertising, the little details are what tends to get lost.
  • The design also had to be transferable to other print collateral, and to digital ads and TV, so nothing too specific to print would work.


All in all, SpotCo designed over a dozen different poster print ads for La Cage Aux Folles, each wildly different from the last. Drew Hodges discusses each of them here. The design went from day to night, pastel to neon, conceptual to literal, classic to ultra-modern and back again, before finally settling on a design.

Such a complex process is a reminder that many industries depend on a single poster design to serve as the fulcrum of a multi-million dollar campaign.

What do you think? Will the final design stand out on Broadway? Will it bring in audiences and compete with the big guns? Which design would you have picked to print en masse?

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