Celebrity magician Murray Sawchuck reveals the Magic of Advertising By Christopher G. Axelrod April 17, 2014 at 8:42 pm Celebrity magician Murray Sawchuck has been performing for the past two years at the Laugh Factory in the Tropicana. On a recent weekday, I attended his 4:00 p.m. show. I was perplexed that this well-branded and known talent only had an audience of 28 for a show in a venue with a capacity of 250. Sawchuck’s 55-minute show was energetic, fast paced, and over-the-top with improv humor, audience participation, a glamorous assistant, an amazing card-master magician sidekick named “Lefty”, and countless eye-popping magical illusions. It was sheer perfection, no doubt from the years of Sawchuck’s international show experiences. The audience for this quality, family-friendly performance ranged from 11 to 81 years old. Everyone was thrilled with value of this first-class show (tickets cost from $35.00 to $45.00 each). So why were there only 28 in attendance? Murray Sawchuck projects a memorable image, clad in his bold blue suit, black Armani glasses, chopped and cropped wild electric blond hair and a wide Cheshire-cat smile. His pre-show videos and celebrity interviews demonstrate that he has appeared in all of the right popular TV shows such as “America’s Got Talent”, “Comedy Central”, “Pawn Stars”, and “Reno 911”, as well as many more. He has toured the globe. He earns accolades from celebrities: “Incredible” from Larry King, and “Amazing” from Howie Mandel. Popular rock music adds to the youthful thrills of his “mind-blowing illusions”. With such strong branding, doing five shows a week, Murray Sawchuck knows his sales potential. Yet even he seemed surprised at the unusually low attendance that weekday afternoon. Murray and his team patiently greet every guest after the show at the merchandise sales area. He poses for photos with fans and ensures that all depart with a warm smile on their face and the feeling that they got more than their money’s worth. I waited to be last in the line so I could about the low numbers at today’s performance. He patiently explained why he did not draw his usual range of 135 to 185 patrons per show. Murray said that The Laugh Factory theater is a tenant at the Tropicana. The performer and tenant unite to advertise the venue, a very typical arrangement for casino shows. Sawchuck had just returned from an Australian tour and the large billboard on the Strip with his image and show information were not back up. The Tropicana is heavily investing in advertising their own offering of “Mama Mia”. There were also recent competitive distractions in town like March Madness and The Country Music Awards. Murray said that in order to compete with the endless amounts of available shows, one needs to have up at least seven major billboards and 130 taxicab back signs. But this optimum campaign can be nearly cost-prohibitive for a matinee show. His lower sales numbers came from a much smaller campaign of viral reviews, printed rack cards, and a few taxicab backs. Because of his very recent return, the Laugh Factory had not yet fully restored its usual campaign and thus the day’s customers were more than 70 percent below normal. The 4:00 p.m. matinee shows are aimed at impulse sales to the pre-dinner walk-up ticket buyer. The Tropicana wisely offers post-show drink incentives to keep guests on their property. The Tropicana box office and uniformed staff were well trained and quickly explained every promotional option to each potential buyer. There was no waiting in line or time for any second thoughts. Murray Sawchuck is well known and a draw. His show is flawless and appealing. He is popular for private events and corporate shows and has a brilliant website. But even such superior branding and consistency can’t make up for reduced advertising. The adage that “You must spend money in order to make money” is clearly applicable to the show that I attended. Murray Sawchuck is not worried. “It will all return to normal in the next few days”, he confidently predicted. As a celebrity magician with extreme talents, offering a fantastic show, he’s sure to have a continuing future as a matinee idol in Las Vegas. And even in today’s challenging economic environment, the known magic of investment in advertising can reliably produce a good number of customers if the show itself isn’t trying to fool its audience about its quality.