Is current theatre marketing to similar to cinema marketing.

• What are the unique selling points of theatre?

• What are the unique selling points of Cinema?

• How can we take theatre to new markets?

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When talking about reaching out to new markets my gut instinct would be looking to online social networking - a co-ordinated campaign that'd combine social network advertising with individual profile pages, updates etc.

The trick would be to create an experience that begins before, and finishes long after the actual performance - the key to that being making the marketing campaign as user-friendly and user-defined as possible. For example, allowing fans to upload their own photographs of a venue, their trip to the theatre, photographs with actors etc.

Spring Awakening at the Novello had a great campaign on Facebook - if you check out their page you'll see they combined photo and video to deliver the whole experience of making the show start to finish, thus getting the audience emotionally invested in the performance before they'd even got past the box office.
Yep, and Avenue Q had to slash its number of performances, and Carousel had to dramatically slash its ticket prices. Spring Awakening would have been a hit in any other economic climate...the majority of West End shows are suffering the same fate as their Broadway cousins did back in October.

The production sold out on a number of occasions and the theatre was packed when I went to see it roughly half-way through the run. If anything I think they were guilty of moving out of the Lyric too soon. But I would've thought any new show would have its work cut out for it - whether it's a fresh production in Wales or a musical from across the pond - to attempt a long run in the current economic climate.
I think it sold really well at the Lyric - packed out when I went towards the end of the run - but died in the West End. And though I loved it, I think it was always a risky proposition in that environment, recession or not. The huge costs of running a show in the West End mean you have to bring in lots of different sectors of the audience, and maybe a show full of shagging, swearing adolescents set to an indie rock soundtrack (as delicious as that sounds to me) just didn't appeal to tourists, families, and people who find adolescents a bit, well adolescent.
I agree. There are dozens of different options available now.
Through online video and audio, audiences can now try before they buy. They no longer need to trust the combined opinions of the company and the marketing department, however objective they may be. Marketing departments should be exploiting this preview system much more intensively. Live musical acts could easily afford to offer free CD downloads with every ticket. And we are rapidly reaching the stage where audiences will be able to purchase a high quality live DVD of the show they have just seen on their way through the foyer.
The trouble for a touring company seeking to use such a marketing campaign is the transience of many theatre marketing departments. So the strategy enthusiastically agreed when booking 9 months before the event ends up being implemented by new staff who often end up omitting key aspects of the operation, such as including critical links on emails or websites. This is natural, but still regrettable, and goes to endorse the truth that All Commissions Rely On Next Year's Management. (ACRONYM)

Hi Michael. I actually think that starting with a poster is exactly the wrong way round. Media is far more complex than that, and paper media is only one of many mediums in which messages can be transmitted. And a limited one at that. You cannot go from a poster image to a video... and to a social engagement campaign - a poster is simply an image.

Start with the principles of engagement - an idea of how you'd like to get people captivated and involved in the story... with a strong engagement idea you can work out how that translates into digital media, audio/video and then poster images - a poster image becomes easy once you've got the big picture worked out. If you start with an image as the central idea, it is too poor a concept to be able to extract video and social/digital media engagement campaigns from it. I think this has been proven many times before. 

New audiences have to be nurtured, whether it’s through face to face discussions, talks, participation events, web videos/interviews even competitions; it’s a way of giving them an opportunity to find out information for themselves without being patronised.

Who are your audiences, who are your new audience and how are they profiled? How will you communicate with them and what are their barriers. All theses questions have to be answered.

People’s perception of theatre and arts in general are still generally quite negative, words such as ‘elitist’, ‘detached’ and non-approachable’ are still being heard topped with the fear of feeling that your IQ will be pillaged during the first five minutes of a show.

(Are we as ‘creative’ people at fault in creating this perception of this ‘artistic members club’ or the current audience or both?)

Once that huge barrier has been addressed and the ‘new audience’ takes that courageous step to say ‘Yes, I will go and pay to see that show’ they will continue to look for any reason not to attend, such as the ease of buying tickets, information, transportation and venue customer care and facilities… comfortable seats, heating ambience and the most importantly how clean are the toilets?.

Successful arts organisations are continually addressing these barriers by using various strategic tools such as ‘marketing mix’ to develop innovative approaches to attract new audiences and to keep audiences. I think that using social networking sites and having an eye-catching promotional material are useful but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

On a more positive note, even with these barriers (inc. the weather) there is an audience and room to develop and new audiences in Wales for theatre and the arts; it’s just finding the right targeted approach. One market(s) that is under represented across the arts are the ethnic minorities, just because they rarely attend an arts event, it does not mean they don’t like the odd sing-song.
Movie advertising is clearly a highly manipulative, expensive and complex commercial process.

Two key differences with theatre advertising are the timescales involved for promotion (more than two years before release for some movies) and the amount of money available.

I thought a trawl through the marketing activity for a recent big movie might give the context. (Interestingly a movie I've not been tempted to see despite the barrage of marketing campaigns outline below!)

Marketing the Transformers Movie...

Begins with 'print' form.

A teaser poster followed by a succession of posters that begin to unfold the visual language of the film. They also include depictions of the key elements of the central conflicts in the story. These posters form something approaching a 'collectable set'.

Next up are the character 'one-sheets' setting out very strong visual identities of the key players.

The promo's then move onto the 'moving image' form.

This includes a very early teaser trailer which in fact seems to have contained nothing that was used in the actual film.

The next trailer was given a countdown clock on Yahoo with three or four subsequent trailers giving a sense of the action style of the movie.

Alongside this 'Online' marketing develops...

The official website gets to reveal how and when tickets can be bought, promo's for the video game, access to Hasbro merchandise etc.

Also online the movie has its own MySpace profile which includes contests.

Even the movie soundtrack is given it's own site with gaming included.

Alongside this we get 'Advertising and Cross Promotion'.

Around 12 promotional pieces for TV were generated as well as large building sized ad's in LA - in which buildings were 'Transformed' by being wrapped in giant promo images. (Start to note the regular use of the word 'Transform' as we go on.)

General Motors of course were a key part of the cross promotion being the car company that supplied the real car models as various Autobots transform into GM Cars (Pontiac / Chevy etc) - giving GM a huge amount of product placement screen time which would all come at a price. GM also go onto create micro-sites themselves linking their products to the movie as well as GM cross promotion spots on TV. They also create a tagline in their car ad's - 'Transform your Ride'.

GM also create a sweepstake through this process: the prizewinner would get to accompany Megan Fox (the movie's 'love interest') to the premiere.

Another promotional partner was eBay with a key plot point in the film revolving around the use of the auction site. For once it seems this was already in the script rather than being grafted on later when the idea of product placement of eBay came about.

In the days leading up to the premiere eBay carries a huge advertisement for the movie on its home page and links to a dedicated page for all things Transformers being bought and sold on eBay. In time eBay will auction off props etc from the film. As well as this eBay ran a user submitted video contest dubbed 'Transform your world with eBay' with users uploading videos of themselves saying how eBay had 'Transformed' their lives.

The scooter company Vespa also ran a co-pro' giving away free movie tickets to people who went to test drive one of their scooters plus a competition to win a scooter.

PepsiCo were also in the mix with their 'Transform your Summer' campaign including a contest with prizes ranging from Xbox gaming systems to Paramount DVD collections. One of their brands, Mountain Dew, appears in a vending machine in the film.

Even Lunchables the pre-packed snack from Kraft sported the movie's logo and pictures of Transformers leading onto in-store signage and more online activity including movie themed games and yet another contest.

The shoe shop chain Foot Locker were in there as well showing the movie trailers on in-store monitors. And in another contest Foot Locker tied the promo's back to Vespa and gave away a free scooter to the winner.

Credit Card company VISA sponsored the premiere and gave VIP access to selected screenings to its Signature level cardholders.

The movie was used to sell the Kids Meals at Burger King with access to a themed micro site.

CBS Radio used the movie to launch their new Web video feature.

Cartoon Network revived the original Transformers franchise brand in cartoon form.

Marvel Comics shoe-horned a story of The Avengers meeting the Transformers into a four-issue limited series.

Clothing company Steve and Barry's created a line of adult friendly Transformers T-shirts.

Sony ran promo's on their Playstation site with access to a behind the scenes look at the making of the movie's offical game.

And then of course there's word of mouth... surely no commercial interest at stake here...

Apart from the boxes of promo goodies sent out to selected webmasters in an effort to get them talk about the movie causing secondary level interest or 'buzz'.

Okay, so... that's the competition... now where do we start?
The advertising for Transformers started 25 years ago when Optimus Prime first went toe to toe with Megatron...

On the one hand I think it's a bad idea to try to compete with Cinema because the production values of mainstream movies are so high, on the other hand people that go to the cinema to see films are already used to going out of an evening with friends and paying to sit in a room looking at people pretend to do stuff. That's pretty close to theatre. If you can just get them to go look at slightly less flat stuff in a different building.

Easier than dragging stay-at-homes out from in front of the TV.
Cinema marketing, on the whole, relies on star names and big budgets. Theatre cannot and does not need to compete.

I once publicised a theatre show based on a cinema campaign – teaser ads and print, launch date for ticket sales, strong media coverage – and it worked, but only because it relied heavily on the endorsement of a famous Welsh band. As a marketing campaign is was successful, but as an audience development campaign it was unsustainable because the product was not available to maintain the relationship and provide the (mostly new) audience with a similar experience.

The key to developing audiences for drama is to understand who they are and what they need and then to develop a relationship with them over time. Understanding audiences, through research, is critical and should be used to inform communication strategies that engage with audiences and provide an experience that they understand and value.

I’m not suggesting that arts organisations should be market led and cater for the lowest common denominator, but they should be market focused and support their audiences’ understanding of the theatre process and provide product that is relevant to them.

The theatre sector in Wales has many achievements but also many challenges. There are several successful venues and companies but there is a need for greater investment to create more quality product, like the work that I hope NTW will produce, which will support a sustainable infrastructure that venues and companies can collectively benefit from and audiences will enjoy.

We also need to communicate the work and the experience of attending a theatre show in terms that define the ‘benefit’ to the audience. Audiences, on the whole, are risk averse. We need to use language, images and communication methods that relate to the audience, not the artist, and establish theatre as an acceptable social activity.

Words like marketing, audience development and public engagement are widely used and abused. But when understood and used correctly, with appropriate resources, the arts will be seen as a relevant and important part of many people’s social agendas.
The key to developing audiences for drama is to understand who they are and what they need and then to develop a relationship with them over time.

I agree, Nick. If you want to bring in new audiences you have to 'educate' them over time - a little bit of 'needs-matching' through an awareness of potential audience segments never did anyone any harm & will not undermine artistic integrity because there is just so much choice of 'product' out there.

Re Guto's broader question about choosing a marketing strategy ... Its a tricky one this, as even the best laid plans might falter in a recessionary climate.
But, a careful blend of right product, right price, right place & right promotion generally meets with some success. In essence,this means running a
multi-platform, multi-layered 'repeater' campaign & choosing style over substance every time!
Yay the four P's of Marketing...sorry for sounding nerdy!!

I totally agree with Nick and Deborah, especially about creating a quality product and getting the right balance of things in a campaign/strategy.

A marketing campaign for a film is global and therefore it has a huge wheel and a huge budget behind it; but large arts organisations are taking aspects cinema marketing and adapting them to their own needs such as using video trailers for up can coming shows, interview clips with directors or members of the company.

The National Theatre website has ‘the making of….’ documentaries about their shows, and National Theatre of Scotland has similar things on their website.

I think one should always keep an eye out for marketing ideas from large companies especially from other industries such as supermarkets and computer companies and adapt their ideas to the arts which a number of companies are doing such as loyalty cards and night out ‘packages’. For new audiences one should keep an eye out at what opera and dance companies are doing because over the past few years they had to change people’s perception of opera and dance and develop new audiences – Welsh National Opera has become, as a brand, very approachable.


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