Denny’s Daily Zinger: What Does This $194,166.00 Ad Accomplish?

On June 20, 2014, the executive team of the Metropolitan Opera signed a full-page advertisement in The New York Times. The title:
An Open Letter to Opera Lovers from the Board of the Metropolitan Opera
The lede:
As readers of the New York Times know, the Metropolitan Opera is currently in the midst of contract negotiations with 15 of the 16 unions representing employees that work at the Met. These contracts come up for renewal every few years, but this year the Met’s strained financial condition has made the negotiations more difficult, and raised a number of issues that we would like to address here.

What follows is a harangue about the mean unions administering death by a thousand cuts to a grand old institution. Two-thirds of the $300 million annual budget goes to the unions. Donations are down and attendance is off.

The Met is seriously in the red.

The situation is hopeless.

Takeaways to Consider

  • The open letter is all about “we,” “us” and “our.”
  • Cost of a full-page Times ad: $194,166.
  • If 10 percent of the 1.898 million Times readers are Met customers, the appalling cost to reach each person is $97.80.
  • The ad makes no offer. Does not ask for money. Does not request for any kind of reply, feedback or ideas.
  • The net-net of the letter: It’s like peeing in blue serge. It makes the writers feel warm all over and nobody notices.
  • My take: a total waste of money the Met does not have.

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Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • Peter Rosenwald

    Just think, Denny, the cost of the ad was only 13.8% of General Manager Peter Gelb’s 1.4 million salary. So what’s to complain about?

    Seriously, salary inflation has become so pervasive in the society and the world of the arts so money-centric, that it is hardly surprising that the unions want their share.

  • msimko

    So the Met didn’t do their homework and look at the numbers before publishing this ‘promotional piece’.
    But really Denny, how do you measure the ‘good will’ generated for the ‘brand’?
    Enough of my sarcasm.
    What your numbers show to me is that the financial problems the Metropolitan Opera suffers is more likely due to mismanagement than it is to overly aggressive union demands.