Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Marketing Communications: the State of Play

Theatre in Wales: Comment

Writers Group , National Theatre of Wales Site , July-28-11
Theatre in Wales: Comment by Writers Group The Internet ought to change marketing communications. It is nice for venues and companies that they have access to low-cost electronic mailing and advertising. But the digital ecosphere has, in the main, been employed to carry on doing old things, albeit in a slightly new way. If anything the digital world is pushing up fixed costs. Equity to its credit has published the numbers. The ratio of fixed cost to variable cost in theatres, that is actually putting on a production and paying people like actors or designers, has deteriorated severely.

Why, rages Hull Truck founder Mike Bradwell, would anyone spend months forging a new play into existence? There is more money in theatre, and from its funders, in advertising a play than writing one.

“The Cluetrain Manifesto” published in 1999 has had a significant effect on the way that marketeers think about themselves. True to its ethos the whole book is available online. It is probably an uncommon sales person in the Arts who has read it. In structure it comprises ninety-five theses, evoking Martin Luther. Theses one to six are titled “Markets are Conversations”. Members in markets communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, diret, funny, sometimes shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked.

Most corporations, on the other hand, say the Cluetrainers, are stuck. They know only how to talk in “the soothing, humourless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us.” Middle managers in the Arts have rushed into social networks in a way little different from brand managers at Heinz or Tesco. Of course, what the poor mid-level account manager then finds is that the Internet likes to bite back.

The French have, in their way, banned their public broadcaster from recommending specific media corporations. Our public broadcaster is in violation of its charter of commercial neutrality daily. But the corporate challenge is best articulated by Evgeny Morozov in his book “the Net Delusion.” The directors of websites want their users to be consumers. The participants, particularly the new generation, are the community; they wish to be treated as citizens.

This is a dilemma for publishers and owners. Information technology has been in many respects a disaster for public service. It is not just the vast, leaky databases that violate all the strictures of security advisors. But front-line professionals by the million now spend seventy per cent of their time, not in carrying out their primary work activity, but in its recording and documentation.

The kick-off of Tim Price’s thread was no doubt one of genuine dilemma for Wales’ new writing champion. The Sherman may or may not at first have issued a fatwa of silence upon its staff. But as a reaction it is understandable. If a job is already busy, then time spent on Internet chat is a digression. It is undesirable that the working week of theatre employees follows that of social workers or educators.

But, on the other hand, the voices present made for some weight collectively within the ecology of Welsh theatre; hence the dilemma. Nonetheless, the delay of a week before any reaction from Chris Ricketts did not look good.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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