The group honored as the Advance Professionals wrote the book on live event promotion and management. Since the early days of P.T. Barnum it has been the work of those who executed the tour planning, marketing, advertising , sponsorship and public relations that made the circus a financial success. The circus is equal parts art and commerce. Nothing happens unless a ticket is sold. In the world of show business, without business there is no show.
Many alumni of this group have gone on to become successful entrepreneurs, agents, show producers, marketing and pr agency owners, sports and entertainment executives and venue managers. You will find them in leadership roles of media companies, major league sports (NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS), ticketing companies, concert and talent management, theme parks, fairs and expositions, cultural arts and non profit philanthropic organizations. The universal ties that bind the group is the collective shared learning experiences gained while working for the circus.
This is the biography of Susannah Smith, a member of the Advance Professionals.
Susannah Smith’s first experience with Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus was as the account director at Gulf State Advertising in Houston. The history of Gulf State Advertising and the Feld organization started when Irvin and Israel Feld brought Portuguese bull fighting to the Astrodome. This relationship developed further when Judge Roy Hofeinz invested in the circus, allowing the Felds to purchase the show from John Ringling North.
Susannah handled all of the print production for Ringling at the beginning of her career. She advanced to being the “promoter” for the Houston engagement every summer at the new “Summit” arena.
Susannah was invited to join Ringling by Allen Bloom in the late 1970’s as creative director of all advertising design. She was responsible for the overall look and feel of the graphic elements for each new edition. She also supervised the TV and radio production. From 1975 to 1997 Susannah Smith’s imprint was on almost every Feld production, especially the graphic design and key art. Susannah also supervised the public relations department thus integrating and aligning all messaging.
Some of her greatest campaigns include the Living Unicorn, Gunther Farewell Tour, Romeo and Juliette, The Children of the Rainbow show, The introduction of David Larible to the USA, Ariana the Human Arrow, the first show with acts from the Peoples Republic of China and Mongolia. She had a unique talent for understanding what it took to sell the Greatest Show On Earth and was an extremely effective collaborator with others to find what was known as the “silver bullet”, meaning the winning formula for a successful marketing campaign.
One reason Susannah was so effective was her informal collaboration with Tim Holst. They would discuss potential act or attraction options and Tim would seek her counsel on what would sell. Their collaboration produced effective results for many years.
Her legacy will probably never be repeated. When history is written she will be noted as the most effective steward of the Ringling brand during the Feld era.