Directing is a talent which requires many sub-talents. The well-prepared director should know something about music, world history, fight choreography, acting, architecture, carpentry, dramaturgy, and graphic arts. On top of all that, stage directors often get stuck doing their own publicity. That's okay, really; it gives the director a chance to work his or her unifying concept into the website, poster, Facebook event page, and so on. No director wants empty houses, so it's important to attract paying customers.
Unfortunately, theater publicity often suffers from poor timing. Some companies create their whole season of posters long before actors are cast, sets designed, or directors even chosen. The resulting poster may have little to do with the show. Also, images are crafted for visual appeal, but no one ever seems to ask one simple question about those images: "How will they convince anyone to come see our show?" And when the posters aren't designed far too early, they're often thrown together at the last possible second.
Lately I've seen several examples of a new strategy: YouTube "trailers" cut together from hastily recorded vignettes. These trailers dazzle the cast and crew of the shows they're meant to publicize, but they don't get much attention anywhere else. I think that's because they were made by people who never asked, "If I were completely unfamiliar with this script, these actors, or our company in-jokes, what would make me come see this show anyway?"
Real Hollywood movie trailer editors and poster designers spend months looking for iconic images, irresistible music, and the perfect way to tell the perfect amount of the story in less than four minutes. We don't have that luxury, so I'm not sure our amateur efforts do much good.
One solution to this problem is to choose a name brand play, like The Full Monty at Capital Playhouse. CP's publicity efforts need only say, "Hey, we're staging The Full Monty," because we already know what it's about. Hollywood did that work already. I haven't seen the full poster for Harlequin Productions' My Old Lady, but the image on Harlequin's website seems to suggest the play is about an old-timey living room. I'm not sure that's the story they really want to tell, but who's to say? The poster for Perfect Wedding at Olympia Little Theatre is a bit more descriptive; it's about a wedding and, apparently, some bedtime tomfoolery. At least that promises sex, which is always a winning publicity angle.
Chances are good I'll direct at least one show myself over the next year, so it'll be my turn to ask, "Other than fondness for me or my actors, what would convince a total newb to see my show?" Hopefully I can find a way to work boobs, explosions, or buxom vampires who explode into my publicity campaign. They're the only things anyone can bank on these days.