Critically acclaimed as a fresh take on a timeless story, the Broadway musical "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella" wanted to reach a new audience: children and adults in New York. Its agency, Situation Interactive, turned to YouTube, allocating 10% of its TV advertising spend to TrueView ads. The result? A 12% increase in ticket sales, heightened awareness and an opportunity for New Yorkers to see the beauty of the show before they even hit the theater. All in just five weeks.

February 2014


“Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” premiered on Broadway in March 2013. The musical is an enchanting adaptation of the classic fairy tale, which was also made into an original television musical in 1957 starring Julie Andrews. Because the production was critically acclaimed as a fresh take on a timeless story, Situation Interactive wanted to ensure that it, too, took a fresh take with “Cinderella” marketing efforts to reach a specific audience.

Showcasing the broad appeal of the show through beautiful footage

Like any industry, Broadway has its peak times and its low times due to tourism ebbs and flows. A challenge for shows is to gain an audience independent of these shifts. Lisa Cecchini, director of media and insights at Situation Interactive, notes, “Early on, you want to capture the base of the local New York audience. If you’re just relying on tourism, you’re really going to struggle in September or January.” To ensure continued success, Situation Interactive needed to reach a specific audience that didn’t know about or wasn’t considering “Cinderella.”

Situation Interactive was also aware of the misconceptions that accompany a show like “Cinderella.” Most people are familiar with the Disney movie and the fairy tale aimed at children, but fewer know about the Rodgers + Hammerstein version that also appeals to an adult audience. “Cinderella” required an advertising medium that showcased the beauty of the live show.

Changing the traditional Broadway marketing strategy

Anyone familiar with New York City’s Times Square knows the area is a prominent and perpetual showcase for Broadway productions. Broadway shows invest heavily in offline media, including billboards, metro area television, and taxi tops to reach the in-market potential theater-goer.

“Cinderella” allocated 10% of its TV advertising spend to TrueView ads to increase reach and brand recall. YouTube TrueView ads are an engaging video ad format that allows users to skip the ad content if they don’t find it relevant. The visual spectacle and splendor made “Cinderella” a perfect candidate to keep users engaged within those first few seconds of viewing. “We want constant entertainment from the beginning so they don’t skip the ad,” Cecchini explains.

TrueView ads also allowed Situation Interactive to learn directly from the user. During the course of the campaign, Situation Interactive adjusted its video creative to place greater emphasis on the transformation of Cinderella that had received a positive response from audiences after A/B testing the creative. Situation Interactive also decided to run the TrueView ads in advance of the summer TV campaign to boost the performance of both ad media.


Earning a standing ovation

Since its premiere, “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” has seen profound success. Within five weeks of running its TrueView campaign, Situation Interactive drove awareness for “Cinderella” on Broadway with more than 550,000 views of the video ad. Of those who viewed the ads, 7% visited as a result. Typically, a 4% click-through rate from a TrueView InStream ad is considered strong.

Situation Interactive focused on reaching audiences unfamiliar with “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” During the campaign, Cecchini found that a “Run of Site” strategy and the “News” category on YouTube were more successful than the “Theater” category. She attributes this to the fact that those frequenting theater videos may have already had knowledge of the show: “We really needed to focus on reaching new audiences as opposed to reaching people that are self-identified as having watched theater content on YouTube. Those are probably ‘in-the-know’ theater people, so we wouldn’t be reaching a new audience.” By allowing the intrinsic qualities of the TrueView ad format to vet potential people who would be interested in the show, “Cinderella” was able to reach across more categories of videos and increase its specific audience. Two-thirds of TrueView “Cinderella” views were from unique users.

Translating online to the box office

The TrueView campaign also made an impact on weekly ticket sales for “Cinderella.” Weekly wraps (the amount of ticket sales for a show during a set period of time) experienced a 12% increase during the time the TrueView campaigns ran compared to when the campaigns were paused.2 “We really felt like there was a lift in the overall wrap during the weeks we ran the TrueView campaign,” Cecchini said. “When we compared the ups and downs of the wrap with other clients, we could tell there was something interesting and different going on with ‘Cinderella.’”

TrueView ads generated awareness and introduced a new audience to the onstage magic of “Cinderella.” As a result of this success, Situation Interactive continues to integrate TrueView ads into its media plans for other experiential brand clients. Cecchini stated, "Having something to go back to that shows tangible results makes all the difference in the world. We can have a bigger conversation now about the value of digital video and using some of what we’ve learned from ‘Cinderella’ for other clients."

[1] Google Internal Data
[2] Situation Interactive Internal Data