The MMIAM Journey

A blog about the Master of Management
in International Arts Management program

Storia di Qu, September 24 and 25, 2014 at the Piccolo Teatro Studio Melato, Milan (credit: M. Alessi with the permission of la Fondazione Milano.

It’s a Matter of Attention: The Marketing of Theatres in the Age of Social Media (Abridged)

In these hard times, many theatres are being confronted with a scarcity of resources. Competition is fierce for all kinds of resources, cross-elasticity of entertainment demands is high and spending review is affecting public budgets. Consequently, theatres must be flexible in their marketing in order to maximize and diversify their revenues. It is therefore essential that theatre managers know their stakeholders and audience well and adjust their marketing efforts – including their advertising expenditures – accordingly.

Marketing also allows theatre managers to give the right amount of information to both theatregoers and non-theatregoers. In an information-saturated economy, the most important resource that theatres must manage is attention: attention of audiences, granting bodies, sponsors, public administrators and any other stakeholders who might support the theatre and contribute to sustainability in the performing arts.

Audiences and revenues will increase if the public’s attention is stimulated by advertising.

Since the use of the Internet became widespread, marketing strategy has needed to evolve: information is no longer accessible only through a limited number of agents such as theatres, leaflets and newspapers; theoretically, marketers can reach a worldwide audience, even by means of other users, for free.

Based on the marketing literature, one might suppose that Web communication tools will be more effective, in reaching both the theatre’s usual audience and new consumer segments, than past marketing approaches.

Using these tools, theatres can increase their ticket sales. It has indeed been demonstrated that theatregoers who use the Web have more opportunities to find information and, consequently, the performance that suits their taste. Moreover, online communication has been demonstrated to be effective in both retaining existing audiences and attracting “inexpert drama lovers”, educating new audience members by means of their active participation.

Social media could well be the key tool used by theatres to reach a broader audience and sell more tickets.

The purpose of this article is to contribute to the debate on the economic performance and marketing efforts of theatres by addressing three questions. Is there any evidence that theatres are trying to draw the attention of different stakeholders? If so, what tools are they using? Are theatres’ efforts in this regard reflected in their economic performance?

Storia di Qu, September 24 and 25, 2014 at the Piccolo Teatro Studio Melato, Milan (credit: M. Alessi with the permission of la Fondazione Milano.
Storia di Qu, September 24 and 25, 2014 at the Piccolo Teatro Studio Melato, Milan (credit: M. Alessi). Fondazione Milano’s Flickr account.

Our hypothesis is that social media can increase the effectiveness of efforts to reach a more diverse audience and capture their attention, and consequently that theatres’ economic performance can be improved.

We begin our analysis by introducing the literature on economy of attention and reviewing theatre marketing in the era of social media. We also review the theatre marketing literature linked to our subject.

We focus on the 2011, 2012 and 2013 annual reports of a sample of 100 Italian theatres, examining the financial statements regarding advertising, intangibles, revenues (and their diversification), total expenditures, net assets and profits.

We conduct two tests. The first empirical analysis tests “advertising stimulating attention revenues.” The second tests “advertising stimulating attention due to social media revenues.”

The results of this empirical study demonstrate that growth and diversification of revenues can be achieved by increasing advertising expenditure in order to capture the attention of different audiences and stakeholders. This is shown to be true for a sample of 100 Italian theatres, including some in Milan, that are active in social networks and, due to social media, have increased the engagement of their audiences.

Read the full article in the International Journal of Arts Management, Volume 20, Number 3, Spring 2018.