Nothing drives me more nuts than a program book ad that simply says “XYZ Company Proudly Supports…”

Unfortunately we see a lot of these types of ads after we take over the program book publishing services for a performing arts organization. And it’s nothing against the organization or the previous vendor they may have been using. It’s just simply a matter of how program book advertising is sold.

You see, program book advertising is just that—advertising. It is not a donation. And until this is realized, you can then start designing an ad that both works for the advertiser, and is enjoyable for the patron.

When we work with an advertiser, we like to create an ad that keeps the integrity of the the advertiser’s branding, but also speaks to the specific performance or patron. It is also important to remember that patrons are attending a performance to be entertained, so why should that entertainment be limited to the stage? Sure, this is going to take a lot more work on your end, but it will pay off in the long run because it will make the renewal much easier.

Think about it, I guarantee the ad that says “XYZ Company Proudly Supports…” will be in one year and drop out the next because the advertiser is going to tell you “the ad didn’t work.” But a well-crafted program book ad geared toward the specific performance or patron with tracking mechanisms in place will AND does work for the advertiser and they will be more than happy to renew year after year.

A Look At The Basics 

In this particular example, we worked with a framing shop in Cincinnati, Ohio for an ad in the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s program book.

At Onstage Publications, we like to think of our account executives more of brand strategists. We take pride in identifying what the customer is trying to accomplish with their program book ad, even if the customer does not know. This begins with questions, and many of them. This all goes back to fact finding with the customer (Program Book Advertising Sales Fact Finding—What Is It? How Do You Do It?)

The Importance Of Tying It All Together

In discussing the focus of how this particular advertiser wanted their messaging to be portrayed to the patrons of the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, we used a simple definition as the springboard. In this case: Frame. The advertiser was also interested in a tracking mechanism in their program book ad. So in addition to the analytics they would be receiving from their digital ad in Stageview, we also tied into their program book ad a give back incentive for the patron. When the patron tells the advertiser about the program book ad, a portion of that sale is donated to the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Performing arts patrons are extremely supportive and loyal to their performing arts organization, and a discount, or give-back program in an ad always plays well to this fact.

Design Cadence: Going From Concept To Reality

After gathering all the information during the fact finding call, the spec ad request goes into our graphic design department. Sometimes the account executive will work closely with the graphic designer to portray the image that was discussed with the advertiser. But many times, we just let our graphic designer’s go at it, and they turn back amazing program book ads.

In this particular example the graphic designer took the “frame definition” concept and ran with it. They also incorporated the offer about giving back to the organization with every purchase after mentioning the ad. An accompanying ad is also designed for the digital version which is then linked to the customer’s website.

Onstage Publications Program Book Ad


Onstage Publications Stageview Ad


You’re Not Done Yet–Tracking Is Essential

Now that the program book ad is printed, you can start tracking the results. If your program book also has an accompanying digital version, you will want to share the analytic’s with the advertiser.

As mentioned, this will add a bit more effort and time on your part, but will pay off down the road when you call the advertiser about renewing their program book ad and they say “heck yeah!” Good selling!


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