Audience Development 30/03/11 RIP?
The Arts Marketing sector in England has surely been rocked today by the Arts Council’s announcement today not to make any of the 8 Audience Development Agencies part of its new National Portfolio.
Whilst we wait with interest to hear what the Arts Council’s new approach to audience development might be, it’s worth reflecting on the journey many of us who have been working in Marketing in the Arts for many years have been on:
15 years ago we were ‘publicity officers’, ‘pushing’ product to the public in a mass-marketing way, trying to emulate the success of commercial marketing – but with tiny tiny budgets this was never going to be particularly successful.
So we learned to be more targeted and effective in our marketing and became data-driven direct marketers, using our box office data (if we had it) to talk to customers in a more targeted way, and encourage re-attendance. This data also enabled us to learn a lot more about where our audiences came from, and to find out to what extent our audience could be ‘developed’ or expanded.
By understanding our audiences better, we also started to understand the benefits of working with partners and other organisations to develop audiences together, and hence marketing consortia, and audience development agencies were born, and since then have worked with many arts organisations to encourage them to utilise data to inform their marketing, and to work in collaboration with others.
Let’s hope that any new ‘national’ approach to audience development will embrace these two core principles:
1. Data-driven marketing – we can’t afford to go back to the days of ‘scatter-gun’ marketing, particularly when funds are tighter than ever, so we need to base our marketing and audience development activity on data, and for that we’ll need professionals who can help us understand and interpret our data properly.
2. Partnership marketing – with less spend per organisation, we have even less ability to make an impact in the crowded noise of the market place – it’s only by joining together and shouting in one voice that we have a chance of being heard: so we’ll need people and agencies to help facilitate and broker these collaborations so that they are effective for all concerned.