Cricket's Notebook by Larry Stark - "My METRO Experience"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


Tuesday 13 - 25 June, 2002: "My METRO Experience
Your Money At Work"

First of all, I hope at least some of you picked up the week-end edition of that free newspaper called METRO this past week and noticed the first ad for The Theater Mirror that formed the foot of the "Theater & Arts Guide" advertising page. Second, if any of you actually entered our "Stubs Contest" or bought a Guidebook, congratulate yourselves because YOU paid for that ad and seven more, two issues a week for a month! The money from those two ventures added up to about $300.00 which happens to have been the total cost not only of that ad, but seven more --- two each week in about the same place.
Thank You All! Take a bow.......

But this Notebook entry mainly concerns how I was treated by the local METRO advertising staff.....

In a word, Superbly!

I found the e-mail address in the inchy-squinchy little type at the bottom of a page 3 --- so small my old eyes could hardly make it out. I sent an inquiry about rates for a one-column four-line display ad to run in any paper carrying a theater review.
Of course, the first couple exchanges have disappeared [My WINDOWS XP often eats my homework], but I got a note back from Alex Shear saying the e-mail went to headquarters in The Netherlands first, apologising for that, and asking what I was trying to accomplish with the ad.

I had no idea what rates the paper charged, and my researches at the HERALD and the GLOBE made me think that the $290 in our savings account wouldn't even cover one insertion. But Maryann Zschau at Lyric Stage told everyone that METRO had become the equal of The GLOBE so far as bang for the advertising buck was concerned, so I explained: I know that most Theater Making People find The Mirror addictive, but I want to add to all those expert eyeballs those of a lot of people who merely SEE plays. I want to wake those people up to all the Other companies they have been ignorant of or merely ignoring.
And this is the dialogue that resulted:
6:50 pm 6/13/2
Hi Larry-
Sorry it's taking me too long to help you - I'm just trying to figure out a way to drive traffic to your site on the kind of budget you're describing. The best idea I can come up with is something unique. We run a Theater directory, the "Theater & Arts Guide", every Thursday and Friday. It is very similar to the Globe's "Ticket to the Arts" directory. It is where Metro readers look for - you guessed it - current Theater and Arts events. If I could somehow get your 4 lines to run as an integrated part of that directory (at the top or bottom somewhere - like Arts/Boston), we could probably do it for $75 per week (two days). You would get 8 ads (1 month) for your $300. You could measure the increase in hits on the site after a month and decide whether or not to continue with the ads. How does this idea strike you?
Alex Shear
Boston Metro
Theater/Arts Advertising Rep
fax 617-338-1257
Boston's largest daily paper
9:55 am 6/17/02
Do you have a fax # so I can fax you the purchase order? You can mail the check to:
Boston Metro Publishing
354 COngress Street, 4th Floor
Boston, MA 02210
Attn: Alex
Thanks Larry, we need to get everything set by tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday June 18)-
Also, how about giving the Metro's Theater & Arts Guide a blurb on the website? just an idea, no biggie-
Alex 4:03 pm 6/19/2 Larry,
Just saw the Theater & Arts Guide that will run tomorrow, your ad is a 3 column x .75 inch strip at the bottom, white text on black, really stands out, I think it looks great. I need you to send me your fax# so I can get you the paperwork, also a phone # would be good in case I need to reach you more quickly. We can just bill you monthly, but I need your address. Please grab a paper tomorrow at the nearest T stop and check it out-

From: Larry Stark's Theater Mirror
To: Alex Shear
Sent: 6/10/02 1:57 PM
Subject: RE: Metro

No Fax. Sorry.....
larry stark
125 Amory Street #501
Roxbury MA 02119
I guess I'd better get the bills, but there will be a FINAL PAYMENT Cancellation once I find splinters under my fingernails from scraping the barrel-bottom.....
Unlike The Boston HERALD, you have been a Helpful Delight to do business with.
Break a leg!
( a k a larry stark )
4:57 pm 6/20/2
Thanks Larry-
Right now I have booked you for 4 weeks: 8 ads, total $300. Did you see it in the paper today? Please let me know what you think, and keep me updated on the response-
Thanks, Alex

From: Larry Stark's Theater Mirror
Sent: 6/12/02 6:05 AM
Subject: Beautiful Ad
Thank you!
I didn't get to an MBTA-station till after business hours Friday but both the look and the placement of The Mirror's ad are top-notch!
[As a "critic" I must add that I'd like to see a hairline separate the BosTix-ad from the "house-ad" line at the bottom; looks like it's offering people ad-space in ArtsBoston.]
The white-on-black neatly keps The Mirror's ad separate from everything else on the page!
I should have said all this early yesterday, but I've been trying to find out what my new WINDOWS XP equipment wants me to do differently than I have in the past. Took me a week to figure out how to make CUTE FTP upload things. ("Cute" in the way Great White Sharks are "cute"!!!)
Thank you!
Send the bills......
And break a leg!
===Fumblethumbs The Magnificent
( a k a Anon. also k a larry stark )
1:20 pm 6/25/2
Great, I'm glad you like it- please keep me updated on the web hits- if we don't see a good increase after two weeks we can try changing the ad...

Notice that I wasn't required to find the advertising department's office, nor to phone someone in the suburbs. There wasn't any credit-check or verification of my existence. Alex changed the size of the ad, used several sizes of type, reversed black-and-white, and treated it as completely separate from the display-ads above it --- and all for $37.50 a pop. And the ad appeared before METRO saw a dime.

And in addition to all that, Alex Shear comes across as a human being interested in MY best interests. As I said, "...a Helpful Delight to do business with."

Now for the pitch:
Maryann is probably correct that METRO is the best ad-buy in Boston right now. I doubt very many people actually Read the paper, but it's Everywhere, and whenever I've found a fairly clean copy on the empty seat next to me on the subway, I've glanced through to see whether there are any theatres reviewed, and if I'm expecting to wait somewhere I'll slide, supercillious, through their 8-minute crossword puzzle. It is the ultimate throw-away, but it probably commands more eyeballs per hour than the GLOBE and HERALD combined, and exposure is everything.

People have discovered METRO: In this 21-23 June issue there are display-ads for "Spring Revels" and "Blue Man Group" tucked in among the movie-ads. The "Theatre & Arts Guide" (which doesn't yet take up a full page) features ads for "Bug" "House of Blue Leaves" "Little Women"" and The Improv Asylum, for "The Larry Lee Lewis Vaudeville Show" and a Lorna Luft appearance and --- though they may come as a package with the display ads --- for "Blue Man Group" and "Spring Revels" and for "George Gershwin Alone" and "Rent". But that's just on the expected ad-pages in their Arts Weekender section. In addition to these, the A.R.T. bought the whole damn back-page to advertise "George Gershwin Alone" and the Wang bought a two-inch banner ad that ran the entire width of the bottom of page one. That's a healthy bite of ad-dollars!

So, considering the clout and considering the humane and helpful treatment I've had at their hands, I'm telling anyone putting up a show locally to spend their ad money at METRO. I'm sure it's worth it. But that simple, self-intrested act can have even bigger consequences:

That "Theater & Arts Guide", even with Music, Cruises and Tours thrown in, only stretches three of five columns across the page ... and even has a little more white-space than Alex Shear might prefer. If enough self-interested theater companies buy ads, maybe we can squeeze the other headings off the damn page and make it a separate THEATER Guide!
If that happens, then the weight of the theater-ad money may be enough so that we can lean on the METRO staff hard enough to make them include complete THEATER listings in their WHAT'S UP THIS WEEKEND columns, along with Clubs, Galleries and Museums. That glaring omission Must Be Changed!
The more Theater ads appear in METRO, the more important the art of theater looks. If the ads actually reflect the number of theatres active every week, and the easy accessibility of the paper does its work, people will find themselves checking METRO to find out what's happening, instead of The GLOBE Calendar or The HERALD (which cost half a buck) or The Boston PHOENIX (which isn't available on every subway platform in the city). And THAT will send these reader-starving papers scrambling to earn back a share of the theater ad-money that METRO will woo away from them.
And who knows What that will mean!

By the time the students flood back into Boston come this September, METRO will be a major player in the bloody newspaper wars here in Boston. And, if all the theatrical companies in the area play their cards right, they can ride with the winner to a greater awareness of live theatres everywhere.
Become part of the Spearhead!

It will certainly be worth the money!


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide