Creation are on the move. Having reached the age of 21, we’ve packed our belongings up into a battered suitcase and are making that first move to London. The capital city. The Big Smoke. Off to seek our fortunes. Specifically, we’re going to Clapham, so only on the edge, but we’d like to think we’re pretty edgy too.
Bringing a show to a new city is a first for us, and with it comes a new puzzle to solve – how to market a show to a completely new audience. In Oxford, we know who we’re marketing our shows to, and we have a pretty good idea of how we can market them. We know where the best online listings are, who the best person at the local press is to organise a preview, which companies can get us a good deal on print distribution, and most importantly, we know that people in Oxford want to see a Creation show.
Having been producing shows for 21 years, we have built up a reputation and a loyal fan base, without whom we’d have collapsed a long time ago. 21 years is quite a long time, over which we’ve built up a substantial mailing list for both e-marketing and direct mail campaigns. For an Oxford production, these lists would be our first stop on a marketing campaign as we know they want to see our work. As well as providing a source of potential bookers, these mailing lists allow us to track the success of any campaigns – there is something immensely satisfying about sending an email and watching the number of visitors to our website instantly increase.
Having a regular audience does not mean they’re always easy to market too, oh no. That comes with it’s own difficulties, but that’s for another day (or potentially another blog post). The task at hand is to sell to a new audience. We need to sell to the man on the Clapham Omnibus (or the man who’s queuing for the Omnibus, it stops right outside the theatre).
The biggest block to us is that simply we’re not known that well to audiences outside of Oxford. We don’t have a relationship with a national audience yet (this would be the point for a rant on the lack of national press coverage of regional theatre, but then I’d lose my train of thought). Without the troops to rally, we’re starting afresh.
Although the thought of selling a show to a new audience is daunting if I think about it too much, it’s also pretty liberating. Going into a production where the audience have no preconceived ideas about the work we do is really interesting; the Clapham production won’t be compared to past Creation shows but we have to make it a success so we can continue to take shows outside of Oxford – we’re in a position of having nothing and everything to prove. Like Edmond Dantès we’ve been able to reinvent ourselves. Not to such an extreme level as Dantès, only on “a reworking our design and copy” level, but it’s still pretty exciting (for more on reinvention, have a read of Theatrical Revivals Reviewed).
As we don’t have an actual theatre, we rarely plan marketing campaigns with our host venue (the folk at The North Wall Arts Centre and Blackwell’s Bookshops are exceptions here – a long-running partnership with both means we’re pretty good at sorting out eflyers and brochures with them). Being based at the Clapham Omnibus for two weeks this June means we can give them all of our print to distribute, provide them with copy for their mailing lists and hijack their social media for a while.
However, getting a physical presence out to Clapham is far harder quite simply as we are physically not there. In Oxford, we can cycle out to town to do poster drops, sneakily put up banners and corex boards, drive around the county taking leaflets to primary schools and generally chat to people about how great the show is on a weekly basis. Yes, we may have tied an eight-foot banner to the Omnibus last week, but what we need to achieve is a constant outpour of marketing materials. Once rehearsals start and we’re on site more, this will be more achievable, but for the meantime we’re finding other ways to sell the show.
The internet is the way forward. We’re revamping our social media at the moment (see Arts Marketing: A Critique for more information), so have been bombarding local businesses with content; sharing, @ing and hashtagging has certainly helped us spread the word. And that’s the crux of the matter.
Fundamentally, word of mouth sells this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, more so than any other show we’ve produced before. To get that word of mouth, we need those first few performances to have a healthy audience number.
Seeing open-air Shakespeare is not hard in the UK, and there are countless versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream happening across the country this summer. Why the people of London should see this version is the message we’re trying to get across. This production is unlike any other you will have seen, but primarily you should see it simply for the craic. It is such an entertaining show, a show that unabashedly celebrates having fun.
We need fun theatre, theatre which you can play with, theatre which makes an audience happy. If you agree, take that trip down the Northern Line to Clapham Common and give us your hands, if we be friends.