Joffrey Ballet and the marketing of "Othello"

September 3, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
Lewis Lazare

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Dance can be tricky when it comes to marketing. Afficionados may be fairly familiar with a large swath of the dance repertoire. But how do you generate curiosity among the uninitiated when you have only a giant billboard with which to do it? That was the intriguing challenge facing the marketing department of Chicago's Joffrey Ballet, which is trying to whip up interest in the Chicago premiere of the ballet "Othello" from Oct. 14 to 25 at the Auditorium Theatre. Since the ballet has never before been presented in Chicago, even afficionados may not be fully informed about the piece and whatever might make it worth seeing.

In any event, the Joffrey decided to use only a bit of beefcake imagery and a Web address to whet the public's appetite for "Othello" in the new billboard execution. We fear the new billboard may not offer enough information or enough of a hard sell to have much impact at the box office. A hint at what might have helped the billboard work better is evident at the Joffrey Web site, where the same dancer with rippling chest musculature is visible. But above the ballet's title, the words "witness the passion" magically materialize on the Joffrey home page on the Web. Now passion is something people can savor in a dance performance. A mention of that passion would have been a resonant addition to the billboard too.