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Text Messaging Used by Theaters

Currently, on Broadway, there is a magnificent show, "Spring Awakening" that has won 8 Tony Awards, and praise from all critics and theatergoers. But the really big story is about the text message promotion that is listed in the Playbill. The flier says, "Win Your Chance to Come Backstage!" and instructs theatergoers to send the text message "bdway spring" to a five digit short code during intermission. The winner, selected at random, is sent a message in return after the show. The winner not only gets to go backstage to meet the cast, but carries with them free PR for the life of their cell phone. Upon registering, textures receive a ring tone from a popular song in the show, and a picture from the show to use as wallpaper on their phones.

Both of these, producers think, are unique conversation starters, that will serve as self-perpetuating promotion and ultimately, ticket sales. In December 2006, there were 18.7 billion text messages sent in the US.

This is nearly double the rate of 9.7 billion from the same time the previous year. This is persuasive data, but theater promoters have been wary, taking into account the horribly disruptive sound of a ringing cell phone during a performance. "Spring Awakening" however, has the age-appropriate audience for such a promotion.

The show itself is about the struggles of adolescent life and the ambiguous messages that this generation is sent by parents and by society. Thus far, participation in the promotion has resulted in about 8.5 percent of audiences who have sent text messages in the 14 times the promotion has run. Taking into account the astounding number of text messages sent in the US, promoters see this number increasingly steadily. The Blue Man Group, a theatrical production featuring a rock oriented musical show, has also used text messaging to promote their latest tour.

The results have shown 16 percent of their audience members sent text messages in response. That figure looks much larger when you consider the group toured 60 cities, in 90 days. It works out to about 50,000 people sending a text message who attended the show, and who now how Blue Man Group somehow represented on their mobile phone. Ringing during performances has not been a problem at this point, but it is definitely something that producers are keeping in mind.

However from a marketing standpoint, the risk, they think, is worth taking.

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