Selling Out With Damian Bazadona

damianbazadonaDamian Bazadona is the President of Situation Interactive, a digital marketing agency with offices in New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles that spotlights see-it-to-believe-it experiences. He has a knack for connecting his high-profile clients, such as Madison Square Garden, Disney and Cirque du Soleil, with the latest technology. Like a mobile campaign he executed for Blue Man Group in Las Vegas, where he focused on “text and snipe” in conjunction with bus ads. For Bazadona, making sure people get out and have fun extends beyond just audiences — even to his employees. Crain’s New York Business has twice named Situation Interactive as one of New York’s best places to work. The University at Albany alum also finds time to be the co-organizer of TEDxBroadway. You can catch Bazadona contributing on hot topics — like “How to Create a Killer Instagram Campaign” — and being tapped as a source for The New York Times, Variety, Inc. and other publications and organizations. Here, he tells Jim how he got hooked on live, what all successful events have in common and the one thing he tries to bring with him to work every day.

Jim McCarthy: Tell us how Situation Interactive started. Did you have a lifelong dream of doing marketing for Broadway?

Damian Bazadona: Not at all. I didn’t actually see a Broadway show until I was in my early 20s. But I’ve always had a passion for live entertainment. I DJ’d and did nightclub promotions all through college, but one moment really jumps out at me. I threw a party once in college called The Storm. I took out a bar on a Tuesday night, because Tuesday nights were their worst nights. They gave me an open bar because even free alcohol hadn’t work in the past in getting audiences to come. About four weeks out, I hung up fliers all over campus that said, “The Storm is Coming.” The night of the party arrived, and I pulled up to the parking lot of the bar around 10:00pm, which was about an hour before it was supposed to start. The parking lot was packed. There were hundreds of people waiting outside. So I go into the club, but no one’s in the club — everyone’s just waiting outside. As it got closer to 11:00pm, people started coming into the club. There was a guy who DJ’d before me who played rock and alternative music. But I realized they were all waiting for me to start because I played hip-hop music, and people were ready to get their dance on! As soon as it was my turn to start and I put the needle on the record — I played a Method Man record which I will never forget — a line formed outside and started growing down the block and all the way around the corner. The nightclub owner told me he had never seen anything like it before. The anticipation of everyone lining up and rushing into the club, at that moment, I was hooked on live.

JM: How has the business evolved? It’s been more than a decade, and you’re much broader than Broadway now.

DB: Broadway will always have a special place in our agency because so many of us love it, and it’s where we got our start. But, you’re right, we’ve evolved tremendously, particularly over the past few years. I founded the agency on the guiding principle that the world is a better place when people are doing things rather than having things. All of our clients align with this philosophy. So, in addition to our Broadway clients, we represent sports brands, like the 2014 NY/NJ Super Bowl and Major League Soccer, arts/culture brands, like The Metropolitan Opera and The Guggenheim, and even TV/film, like USA Network and NBCUniversal.

We’ve become live entertainment specialists in the sense that we represent these huge, global, live entertainment brands. We’ve really gotten to know their consumers. Whether it’s the mom who takes her son to Radio City to see the Christmas Spectacular for the very first time or the Major League Soccer fan who got up at 5:00am to pre-game for the big match later that day, we know those people. And they’re really not as different as they might seem. They’re driven by passion and practicality, and I’ve built my business on talking to people like that.

JM: When you think about all the shows and events you’ve worked with, what have been some of the common characteristics of the successful ones?

DB: They don’t try to be something they’re not. They embrace their identity and let that lead all of their efforts. Consumers respond to authenticity, particularly in this day and age, and I would definitely say that our most successful clients share a sense of authenticity.

JM: Do you have any general advice for live entertainment marketers? We’re all about selling out here!

DB: You’re not selling tickets; you’re selling memories. It’s one of the reasons that I love this business. I took my son to the New York International Auto Show this year for the first time and the look on his face when we walked in and he saw all of the cars — I will never forget that. You know, we’re a very data-driven company; everything we do has a metric attached to it, which is very important. But in the live entertainment space, you have to remember that the ROI is on the expression. That’s something that I remind my staff and my clients all the time.

JM: In a similar vein, do you have any general advice for entrepreneurs, particularly those who want to work in the world of live entertainment?

DB: Listen and learn through any means possible. Stay open and interested in everything that’s happening around you. I’ve always felt that a spirit of curiosity is essential for working in the live entertainment space. It’s something I try to foster in myself on a daily basis.

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