ADA 3.0 Fellow Alexander Fleming explains how the Donmar Warehouse’s marketing team are bringing the challenge of diversifying audiences to the whole organisation.
At the Donmar, we’ve always been committed to reaching as broad an audience as possible despite the intimate size of our Covent Garden home.
Historically, this has meant ticket schemes such as Barclays Front Row and YOUNG+FREE, plus broadcast initiatives such as being the first venue outside the National Theatre to participate in NT Live; broadcasting a play live on the night of the 2015 election; or capturing our Shakespeare Trilogy on film for new audiences in cinemas, on the BBC and in schools.
Despite these efforts, the speed at which tickets sell at the Donmar has continued to be a barrier in bringing new audiences into the venue. Often, by the time a new audience has found out about a production, tickets are sold out or scarce. To address this, we have begun looking at how we release tickets, how this is communicated and to whom it is targeted.
Earlier this year, we conducted research with Morris Hargreaves McIntyre which showed that our target audiences were often the first to know about new experiences or productions, but had not necessarily heard of the Donmar before. This challenge of how to reach them without appearing mainstream has become a core focus in how we approach a younger and more diverse audience for the Donmar.
To begin the process of delivering this, we have made audience diversity a goal that the entire organisation takes ownership of – whether programming, producing, marketing, development, box office or front of house. As part of this, we involved the wider Donmar staff team in our audience research, and our first ADA experiment, tasking them with identifying the social media accounts that they like to follow and why. This has enabled us to develop our targeted advertising and find informed groups of influencers who we can reach out to about new productions.
Together with secret links that allow priority access to otherwise sold out productions, the support of the entire Donmar staff is enabling us to reach new audiences in a way that doesn’t put off potential bookers. We also ensure that everyone in the team knows how their contribution has helped. Although this is just a small start, it means the whole company feels engaged in a joint ambition and helps us to hold ourselves to account.