In this day of social technology there’s little attention paid to the ABC’s of advertising. Yet developing an effective ad will always be a useful skill, whatever the medium.
Learn from The New York Times
My first newspaper ads in the orchestra industry were display ads, heavy on visuals and low in detail. Meanwhile, the ads I saw in the Times were heavy in detail, more like listings than billboards. I reasoned that I could learn from the best marketers in performing arts how to make use of expensive space. Indeed, as I consulted existing market research studies and commissioned others, I found their insights pointed me toward a similar style.
Define the Action You Desire
This column assumes you want the reader to choose a concert, pick up the phone or get on the Web, then order tickets. That is, even though you’re writing a print or online ad, it’s more like direct marketing than an image ad.
Know Your Target Audience
Let me state an honest self-appraisal of my copy writing abilities. As good as I am…
I don’t believe I can persuade someone who doesn’t like and therefore doesn’t listen to classical music to purchase a ticket to a classical concert.
I offer this opinion of my skills. If you believe you can overcome this hurdle, don’t read further. This post assumes your target segment is people who listen to classical music.
How can you attract people who don’t currently listen to classical music? That quixotic task may be more possible now than ever. Online social behavior offers an exciting opportunity to motivate people who haven’t attended concerts to come at the invitation of their friends. That has always happened offline; today’s online tools give you a chance to stimulate that behavior. But that’s for other posts.
Spotlight Your Audience’s Key Motivators
How can you create a newspaper ad that will entice people to attend a particular concert? What’s the right message? Here’s a simple hierarchy, a rule of thumb about audience desires.
- Motivations to listen to live classical music are complex, based on the research I’ve seen. Yet connecting with musicians and the music are at the head of the list.
- We’ve always known from experience, and such work as the Atlanta Model has quantified, that audiences are drawn more to particular composers and a limited number of known compositions.
- Conductors are somewhat down the list as motivators, although a small number of music directors break the mold. During my high school and college years, for example, subscriptions doubled at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra with Thomas Schippers as music director.
- Beyond a few well-known musicians, guest artists don’t draw large audiences.
Your ad is a keyhole through which you show the experience your audience will have listening to your orchestra. Tapping into your target market’s motivations in a few square inches is far more challenging than, say, fitting a Twitter message into 140 characters.
Make Your Ad Actionable
- People have to be able to plan, so showing concert dates, times and locations is essential.
- Including prices has prompted people to act in every category. Show a range of prices or, if you use dynamic pricing, simply provide the lowest price.
- A rule of thumb is that a third of audiences plan to attend in the week of a concert, another third plan in the month prior, and the remainder plan more than a month out. So you’ll want to merchandise your concerts over time.
- The ad should empower people to purchase tickets, so they’ll need a Web address and phone number.
Assemble Your Ingredients, Then Make the Recipe
The skeleton of your ad, then, is the following:
- Your orchestra’s name, phone number and website.
- Upcoming concerts for the next month or so.
- For each concert, the date, time, place if that varies, and the key element or elements that will attract people to buy tickets. The concert title, or perhaps the most important or most popular piece to be performed, may be that key element. A title with a one-sentence description is another option. If you have space, a complete listing of pieces and performers can be helpful, yet many orchestras don’t find it essential.
It’s wonderful to include a photograph of one of your musicians, smiling and looking into the camera, in concert dress with their instrument. Your audience’s appreciation of your musicians is a major motivation for attending live performance.
Leave Out All You Can
- Images of guest artists or conductors are wonderful when they reinforce audience motivations to purchase tickets. That is, include pictures that advance your story. In newspapers print quality can be so poor that thumbnails of guest artists can be meaningless rectangles of gray.
- As mentioned, you don’t necessarily need to list whole programs and performers. Create your ad with pieces of the puzzle or the whole program, as you see fit.
The more you leave out, the more white or negative space you can use to make the ad visually interesting, easy to read and easy to spot.
What Has Worked For You?
Has your experience differed from mine? Please share your thoughts.