What's better than a Super Bowl ad? A Broadway musical, obviously.
At least that's what Skittles is betting on. This Sunday, rather than paying for a 30-second TV spot seen by more than 100 million people, the candy brand (owned by Mars) is throwing its resources into a 30-minute show called Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical. There will only be one performance, seen by 1,500 ticket holders at New York City's Town Hall theater. And no, it won't be aired on TV or livestreamed online.
If that math sounds confusing, don't underestimate the power of social media buzz.
Ari Weiss, a creative officer from the ad agency behind the production, explained the concept to The New York Times this way:
...people buy snacks for Super Bowl parties in the days leading up to the game, not during it. Mars challenged the agency to invent an ad that would create a conversation before the game.
If this all sounds like the commercialized apocalypse of Broadway integrity, the producers get it. The show is the very definition of "meta":
- A teaser posted on YouTube earlier this week films the cast rehearsing and recording a number called "Advertising Ruins Everything."
- Michael C. Hall stars as the character "Michael C. Hall," an actor conflicted about starring in a Skittles commercial.
- Even the tagline on a poster for the performance reads, "A New Marketing Stunt Starring Michael C. Hall."
"People are starting to realize that experimental theater is the place for new ideas," says choreographer Raja Feather Kelly. "They're being really self-reflective as an ad agency, taking a look at this consumerist product."
Kelly, who often dissects pop culture and media in his work, was brought on board by director Sarah Benson. She advocated to hire him when she found out the production team hadn't realized they needed a choreographer to create a musical. (When will people realize dance doesn't come out of thin air? Good grief.)
Kelly has fashioned the choreography as a love letter to his favorite Broadway shows, throwing in references to everything from West Side Story to The Wiz.
Asked what it's been like choreographing for Michael C. Hall, Kelly says, "He's been game to do anything." Hall would ask him to email over videos of the choreography before rehearsal, so that he could learn all the steps before they got into the studio. "It makes sense why he's so successful—he works really hard."
Creating a commercial musical isn't a wholly new concept. The Times points out that, back in the '50s, '60s, and '70s, brands like Chevrolet and Coca-Cola use to hire Broadway talent to create mini-musical industrials for conventions and business meetings.
Yet those commercials/musicals served as fun perks for employees. This marketing stunt charges ticket holders up to $200 to watch what is effectively an ad. And yes, it's sold out.
But here's one thing no one should argue with: All proceeds from the ticket sales are going directly to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS—with a matching donation from Skittles.