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Camelot (it’s only a model…)

The Audience Agency’s Oliver Mantell argues that there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to audience segmentation.

Camelot
Photo by Tim Fields used under Creative Commons

Consultants are like actors, in that we rely on a certain ‘suspension of disbelief’. Just as great acting performances are the ones where you don’t think ‘they’re such a good actor’, so the best consultancy doesn’t leave you constantly aware of how well they are ‘being a consultant’. However, just as anyone at a theatre who stood up, pointing, and said ‘they’re only acting’ would be roundly shushed, there’s a certain impropriety to pointing out about a consultant that ‘they would say that, wouldn’t they?’.

But occasionally, it’s appropriate to break that fourth wall, to reassure viewers that however impassioned what they see on stage is, they needn’t fear for Hamlet or Aida’s life, or rush onstage to help. Or that although the advice they’re getting is informed, expert and well-articulated, it’s not necessarily the full picture. Sometimes, as in the famous Monty Python clip below, you need someone to point out that ‘it’s only a model’.

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Understanding audiences means more than being able to call up their booking history

Morris Hargreaves McIntyre consultant and AMA Chair Jo Taylor says we need to rid ourselves of the notion that everything we need to know can be found in our box office systems.

Audience
Photo by Martin Laine used under Creative Commons

This week the first of a number of our clients (92nd Street Y in New York) are going live with an app we’ve developed to capture and integrate qualitative factors into individual box office records (including their Culture Segment). The second will be The Place here in the UK. It’s really satisfying to see 18 months’ work come to fruition. But more than that, I’m excited about how it will help them understand and develop meaningful relationships with audiences.

For 18 years I worked in marketing, mostly in performing arts. I began in the days when our box offices used to basically sell raffle tickets for concerts, put the cash in a box and write it down in a book. For those who don’t go back this far, I’m not joking.

I remember in technicolour my first computerised box office system.

I’d been banging on about the need for it for an age, so when it finally arrived, I was delirious, and agreed to shut up for the rest of my life. After all, all the information we needed was now there, at the push of a button.

Previously we’d had to rely on people scanning leaflet racks and reading listings in the local paper to find out about our shows, which was at best hit and miss. It sounds unbelievably basic now, but simply having at our fingertips details of people who’d previously booked, so we could contact them to see if they wanted more, was huge.

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