For the millions of tourists who visit London each year, seeing a West End show is usually at the top of the ‘must-do’ list.

Unsurprisingly, this poses a big challenge for small or more traditional theatres – those that lack the marketing budget behind bigger productions.

How can theatres such as Shakespeare’s Globe compete for the attention of international tourists? This was the challenge for agency, Digital Willow, which recently worked with the Globe to put a decidedly modern spin on its marketing strategy. 

Here’s a bit more on the campaign, as well as a few reasons why it worked.

The challenge

The biggest issue Shakespeare’s Globe faces is marketing with a miniscule budget. It is an educational charity, meaning it receives no annual government subsidy, largely making money from its theatre tours, box office sales and donations.

While the Globe does naturally generate interest due to its history (and incredibly English reputation), it still tends to fall under the radar of tourists, especially up against the bright lights of Les Mis or Harry Potter.

Competition does not only come in the form of theatre, either. When you take into account the amount of London tours and activities promoted on websites like TripAdvisor or even smaller apps like YPlan – a Shakespeare play can prove to be a tough sell.

The solution

Instead of spending money on above-the-line advertising, such as billboards that could easily be ignored or go unseen, the Globe chose to use more advanced targetting to reach tourists, increase footfall and subsequent ticket sales to the theatre. 

It used GPS, geo-location techniques and programmatic buying to pinpoint advertising messages to mobile phones near Bankside and within a one-mile radius of competing sights, including the London Eye, Big Ben and the Tower of London. 

In order to prevent the potential wastage of marketing spend, it also drilled down to country level, narrowing down the target audience to tourists from Spain, France, United States, Germany and China where the Globe had previously seen ticket sale success.  

Finally, marketing messages were also sent to tourists logging into partnering hotel Wi-Fi either early morning or late in the evening, when they were presumably planning their holiday activities.

The results

With an increase in ticket sales of 30% year on year, the Globe’s geo-locational approach was an overall success.

The campaign saw a click through rate of 1.08%, which is four times higher than the industry average on mobile devices. 33 days into the campaign, 1,006,550 impressions had been served to international tourists, of which 8,959 clicked and 3,381 registered on the website. 

Lastly, the overall click to conversion rate was 33.8%.

Why did it work?

While we’ve seen examples of retailers utilising this method, the entertainment industry has yet to experiment with geo-locational technology to much of an extent.

As well as being a theatre-first, the Globe was able to hone in on its target international customer - only connecting with those that presented the biggest chance of conversion. The ads also appeared on apps that are proven to be incredibly popular with tourists, including Tube Map, London Bus Checker and XE Currency. 

Alongside a high level of visibility, the Globe's campaign also tapped into changing consumer behaviour, whereby tourists are less likely to plan ahead in favour of spontaneous and off-the-cuff experiences.

Similarly, with smartphone use on the rise, and 72% of travellers using a mobile to look for the most relevant information - geo-locational marketing provided the perfect opportunity to target consumers looking for tours and activities on the go.

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 31 March, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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