Havas Chicago launches campaign promoting local theater companies

Mayor Brandon Johnson, Choose Chicago, and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) announced the launch of Theater Season, a new Havas Chicago campaign to promote local theater in partnership with the League of Chicago Theatres.

The campaign will utilize live pop-up performances by local theater companies along with provocative traditional advertising to celebrate and support Chicago’s diverse theater community, bringing together both returning and new audiences to enjoy a rich array of performances throughout the fall and winter months.

“Chicago’s live theater and performing arts community has shown incredible resilience over the last three years,” said Mayor Johnson. “The arts tell our stories; they keep our cultures and histories alive. I hope that Chicagoans and visitors to our great city will join me this Theater Season in supporting the arts by buying tickets to an upcoming play or musical at one of our dozens of neighborhood and downtown theaters.”

In a city renowned for its culture and arts, Theater Season is poised to shine a spotlight on the exceptional talent of Chicago theater companies and dance troupes. Just as there are wedding seasons, football seasons, and election seasons, this campaign will remind residents and visitors that autumn and winter mark the pinnacle of activity for our city’s performing arts organizations.

“Chicago’s cultural institutions are peerless in the Midwest, and they stack up against those of any city in the world,” said Lynn Osmond, President and CEO of Choose Chicago. “Our theater companies, dance troupes, and other performing arts organizations are major assets to residents and key selling points for our city to both leisure and business travelers. Choose Chicago works with the leadership and marketing teams at these organizations to promote them to local, regional, national, and global audiences. Theater Season is just the latest example of how we are doing that work.”

The performing arts community in Chicago, like countless others worldwide, endured immense challenges during the pandemic. While the curtain fell temporarily, the spirit of creativity and resilience among local artists remained unwavering. As we navigate a post-pandemic world, Theater Season will serve as an opportunity to rekindle our love for the performing arts.

Theater Season is not just about rekindling old passions; it’s about fostering a sense of renewal and discovery. The goal of the campaign is both to reengage legacy audiences who have not yet returned to their cherished theater-going traditions, and to invite new enthusiasts to experience the magic of live performances in Chicago’s many downtown and neighborhood theaters.

As Chicago’s economy has broadly seen steady progress toward a post-pandemic recovery, attendance at theater performances has lagged behind other forms of entertainment. Earlier this week, DCASE in partnership with SMU DataArts, released “Navigating Recovery: Arts and Culture Financial and Operating Trends in Chicago”—a first-of-its-kind comprehensive report on the health of Chicago’s art sector before, during, and emerging from the pandemic. The report reveals that many organizations, specifically many nonprofit theater organizations, are experiencing crisis now with dwindling audiences, increased costs, shrinking budgets and staff, and decreases in private donations between 2019-2022. It also shows the temporary lifeline provided by government relief funding, impact on bottom line and working capital, as well as how different kinds of organizations are bucking trends and thriving.

“Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world for arts and culture—and our working artists generate millions in economic revenue for the city. But as the data shows and we have seen first-hand in Chicago and nationally, the nonprofit theater sector still faces many challenges,” shared Erin Harkey, DCASE Commissioner. “Understanding this context is essential as we continue to support the sector through recovery and beyond. The Theater Season marketing campaign is a powerful call-to-action for locals and visitors, and part of the City’s multifaceted efforts to uplift the sector.”

For the past three years, DCASE has held convenings with the arts community that have helped shape the City’s ongoing support of the sector through financial grants, new collaborations with philanthropy sources, marketing campaigns, and wrap-around supports and resources for theater and other creative workers—including a new directory of Creative Worker Resources.

The Theater Season campaign was creatively spearheaded by Havas Chicago to accelerate the return of audiences to Chicago’s theaters. “The past couple of years were tough on the theater industry, but Chicago’s Theater Season represents our unwavering commitment to help the community revive and thrive,” affirmed Myra Nussbaum, HAVAS Chicago President and Chief Creative Officer. The campaign will include a comprehensive advertising campaign across the Chicagoland region. Physical advertisements will be seen on highway billboards and city information panels, and digital advertising will be placed across streaming radio, social media channels, and search engine marking as well as Choose Chicago website retargeting. Advertising will target the Chicago designated market area, which covers an approximately 50-mile radius around the city stretching into Southeast Wisconsin and Northwest Indiana.

The campaign will run from October 5 through November 27.


“Chicago is home to thousands of professional artists and performers, crew members and union workers who reflect our communities in their work and engage audiences across Chicagoland,” said Marissa Lynn Jones, Executive Director of League of Chicago Theatres. “The work on their stages, education programs that bring youth to productions, and community engagement allows stories to be shared across generations. Now in this challenging time recovering from the pandemic, all of these artists that bring the vibrancy of our stories to life and give us real shared experiences in community need our support. This initiative from Choose Chicago, Mayor Brandon Johnson, DCASE and the League of Chicago Theatres will help people remember the joy in coming together. This initiative helps the League of Chicago Theatres’ over 200 theatres across the city in our neighborhoods and suburbs continue to create and tell the new and classic stories we love today and will cherish tomorrow.”

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