There’s more to digital marketing than Facebook. Kathryn White checks out the powerful effect of youtube…

Amateur theatre is positively booming in Melbourne town; there are more and varied companies springing up all over the place, we are seeing an absolute plethora of lesser known shows, and some companies seem to be producing blockbuster after blockbuster every season.  For this reason, the last twelve months has seen a definite upping of the ante as far as marketing approaches are concerned.  The ol’ letterbox drop and article in the local paper of years gone by, while not to be sneezed at, simply don’t cut the mustard as theatre marketing tools anymore. 

Even the popular ‘Facebook-saturation-technique’, a sometimes controversial marketing tool that is used by several companies, is not as effective as it once was.  Mass emails and social networking sites? Easy, quick –most definitely.  But they’ve certainly lost their lustre; most people receive several emails or event invitations a week.  And they’re so easily ignored with the click of mouse button.  To reach your audience these days, you’ve got to be creative. 

So far, 2010’s biggest marketing claim to fame has been through the power of YouTube.  The cast of both UMMTA’s ‘The Wedding Singer’ took to the streets this year with a flashmob ‘impromptu’ performance, intriguing prospective audience members and generally scaring the bejeezus out of people on the streets. This video gave a great preview of the show and generated interest which (one would hope) translated into ticket sales.  Similarly, publicity videos, like Fabnobs’ latest offering for ‘Reefer Madness’ – a sped up, slapstick style preview of the cast in rehearsal – are also on the rise.   

With so many productions to choose from, attending shows can be an expensive exercise. Often, we’re forced to choose between shows, and while we’re usually there to support friends or particular companies, a good publicity video can sometimes (surprisingly) tip the balance in our decision making process.  Like good advertising, we may not even realise that it has any part to play.  I remember at the end of last year, I was really keen to see WMTC’s production of Assassins; I was interested in seeing a show that I had never seen before, performed by what I knew would be a very experienced cast.  But deep down, I think I was mostly itching to see some real guns go off.  A little trite perhaps – but I was totally sucked in by their behind the scenes video.   

Generation Y are rising through the ranks and are taking a firm grip on the direction of amateur theatre, and it is their desire for instantaneous and engaging digital media that is propelling the way we market our shows.   We are being visually stimulated and enticed – and are also probably spending far too much time on YouTube at work.  I suppose the downside of these marketing techniques is obvious; sometimes the hype becomes bigger than the show itself. And perhaps, like Facebook, we run the risk of these newer publicity techniques becoming mundane through overuse. 

However, at the moment, this kind of advertising is exciting; it provides a creative outlet for those who want to be theatrically involved without an onstage commitment. Skills in multimedia are the currency used by production managers and marketing managers to get bums on seats, and the opportunities for young creative marketing minds are really opening up in the amateur theatre community.  Thanks to shows like ‘The Gruen Transfer’, that are designed to deconstruct marketing techniques, the average Joe is far more savvy about creating new ways to interest the public.  Today it’s publicity videos, interviews and flashmobs – it’ll be interesting to see how this digital ante can possibly be upped in the future.   

UMMTA’s The Wedding Singer:  

Fabnobs Reefer Madness:  

WMTC’s Assassins: