Your Phone Tells Me You Were In An Art Museum, Now You Are In Starbucks….

Last month NPR had a story discussing how lawyers were sending ads for their services to people in hospital emergency rooms thanks to technique known as geofencing which allows one to identify cellphones entering to certain geographic area.

Geofencing is something retailers use to offer you coupons when you approach the area of their shops. The use around hospitals raises some privacy concerns. Everyone in the hospital is bound by law not to reveal information about your visit, but those gathering information from your phone signal are not.

Once someone crosses the digital fence, Kakis says, the ads can show up for more than a month — and on multiple devices.

To Kakis, this is just modern-day target marketing. In his pitch to potential clients, in an email reviewed by WHYY, he calls the technology “totally legit.”

But Massachusetts’ attorney general, Maura Healey, offers a different response.

“Private medical information should not be exploited in this way,” Healey says. “Especially when it’s gathered secretly without a consumer’s knowledge, without knowledge or consent.”

This type of service is widely available and can be used for all sorts of useful purposes. If you can see that people attending your events are also frequenting various restaurants and other businesses in your area you are able to take any number of actions like coordinating promotions with the businesses or providing evidence of economic activity in your community.

You can also geofence other arts organizations in your region as a way to identify people who are inclined to participate in arts and cultural activities and provide them with information about your own activities.

Of course, the technology can assist in some questionable practices as well. You might send general ads about “high quality performances at half the price and free parking” to people who have visited an arts organization in your area that charges higher pricing. Or you could directly disparage other organizations with people who enter or pass near their buildings.

As I understand it, you currently need to provide ad content to a service provider who sets up your ads in the same way a broadcaster might. By which I mean, it has to pass through human hands and they could potentially nix something as blatant as “Why are you walking into that crappy theater when you could be in a modern facility that allows you to eat at your seat and has a fun all around atmosphere. There is still time to come to Acme Theater.”

However, I imagine within a handful of years, you will be able to delineate your own geofencing using an online map and upload an ad from your office as you would to a social media site. It may be difficult to track who is attacking your reputation while people are buying food from your snack bar.

Now personally, I don’t see a lot of arts and cultural organizations getting this cutthroat. They may send out something along the lines of “If You Liked The Dali Retrospective, You Might Like….”

However, it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility that an electronics business, video streaming service or cable company might geofence your organization and send something like “After a hard day of work do you really want to get back in the car, try to find parking, get home at 11 pm and pay the babysitter when you could stay at home and enjoy being in control of your experience with your gorgeous entertainment system?”

I anticipate that there will be debates about the ethical use of techniques that allow marketers and others to track people’s movements as these practices become more common and wide spread.

Culture Is There For Those Hostile To It, Too

Just came across Oskar Eustis’ TED Talk, “Why Theatre Is Essential To Democracy.” He talks about the how so much of the work Joe Papp did with the Public Theater was about expanding access and telling important stories that were being muted.

Eustis goes on to talk about how he has been trying to extend that mission as the current director of the Public Theater, taking shows out to the five boroughs of NYC and to NJ rather than expecting people to come to them in Manhattan.

I wrote a little about this when I covered Eustis’ keynote at the 2016 Arts Midwest conference where I wrote,

He also mentioned despite doing so many free productions in Central Park, they discovered only their prison program and the shows they trucked out to the five boroughs of NYC were the only programs that were serving a mix of people that reflected the demographics of NYC.

In his TED Talk, Eustis mentions how the curtain call statement by the cast of Hamilton  to then Vice President-elect Pence had spurred calls for boycotts of the show.

I looked at that boycott and I said, we’re getting something wrong here. All of these people who have signed this boycott petition, they were never going to see “Hamilton” anyway. It was never going to come to a city near them. If it could come, they couldn’t afford a ticket, and if they could afford a ticket, they didn’t have the connections to get that ticket.

They weren’t boycotting us; we had boycotted them. And if you look at the red and blue electoral map of the United States, and if I were to tell you, “Oh, the blue is what designates all of the major nonprofit cultural institutions,” I’d be telling you the truth. You’d believe me. We in the culture have done exactly what the economy, what the educational system, what technology has done, which is turn our back on a large part of the country.

With this in mind, he says next Fall the Public Theater is going to take Lynn Nottage’s play, Sweat, on tour to rural counties in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin:

Sweat is based on interviews Nottage conducted during visits to Reading, PA where she also helped create the multi-media, site specific production of This Is Reading that I have written about before.  (Be sure to read Margy Waller’s account of the production which I link to in both articles.)

Eustis describes Sweat as,

…about the deindustrialization of Pennsylvania: what happened when steel left, the rage that was unleashed, the tensions that were unleashed, the racism that was unleashed by the loss of jobs.

Eustis give us a lot to think about when it comes to bridging the gap between the ideals expressed in mission statements and grant proposals and translating them into action.  He could have easily concluded boycott efforts wouldn’t hurt Hamilton ticket sales one whit, ignored the disapproval and continued on. Instead, he concluded there was an unmet need and a problem that needed to be addressed and started to put a production together to respond to them.

The approach isn’t going to be one of, “we are Broadway and we are here to illuminate your poor benighted souls,”

We’re partnering with community organizations there to try and make sure not only that we reach the people that we’re trying to reach, but that we find ways to listen to them back and say, “The culture is here for you, too.”

When HiPPOs Attack

Being the voracious consumer of arts administration theory and philosophy, I jumped on the slide deck Drew McManus and Ceci Dadisman put together for their session at the Association of Arts Administration Educators conference.

The topic they covered was “Effective Data Driven Decision Making,” which may sound uninteresting until you realize that the main thrust of their session was providing guidance for dealing with a major barrier to progress in an organization, the HiPPOs.

In his post on Adaptistration reflecting on his conference experience, Drew expresses some surprise that conference attendees hadn’t heard of HiPPO decision making before. I suspect people are familiar with the practice, but just don’t know that particular term.

HiPPO stands for Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.

I am pretty sure everyone has had the experience where they put a lot of effort into developing a plan/proposal, supporting it with research, surveys, etc., perhaps going through multiple layers of people to get their buy-in and approval only to have the final decision maker summarily nix it.

Usually the rejection is based on a personal opinion or gut feeling about what should be done, despite the fact that the people they pay to do research, analyze data, and be subject matter experts say otherwise.

This slide from Drew and Ceci’s presentation summarize it pretty well.

Accompanying this and other slides in the presentation are scads of notes Drew and Ceci graciously supply. Including the following tips about HiPPO behavior:

How to tell if you’re a HiPPO (or work for one). HiPPOs ask:

  • How much traffic is coming to our website?
  • What are our conversion rates?
  • What are the top exit pages on our website?
  • How many average monthly leads do we generate?
  • What is the average site visitor time on site?
  • What are our click-through rates on the homepage slider?

In short, if your data requests sound like grant applications, you have yet to establish a positive data culture.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking about effective data driven decision making in terms of having to collect even more information for reports no one is going to read. Think about this in terms of creating a work environment in which data analysis and expertise is honored across the whole organization (Drew & Ceci also address siloed decision making) and acted upon rather than disregarded on one person’s word.

Basically, the goal is to reduce how frequently you utter the phrase, “So what did I do all that work for…” at work

Go check out the slide presentation and accompanying notes.

Could You Benefit From Sharing Your Ticket Revenue With Four Other Theaters?

Kaya Stanley-Money shares a really intriguing story on Arts Professional about how five London theatres presented the same performance and then pooled the ticket revenue.

…the five London venues to present Yvette for two or three nights at each venue over a two and half week period, sharing the box office income equally after the artist guarantee had been paid. This meant that venues at the start of the tour would benefit as much as those at the end, removing all competition and encouraging a genuine collaboration.

The performances were marketed as a London run, which enabled us to establish a comprehensive press strategy and offered the opportunity to build audiences for Urielle’s work in five different London boroughs. This was particularly important to reach a much younger audience who are typically less likely to travel far and have deeper geographical roots than your average London theatregoer.

Above all, this model offered Urielle the invaluable opportunity to build a relationship with all five venues, capitalising on their support for emerging artists.

I was especially drawn by the mention that this arrangement provided an opportunity to reach a younger audience in five London boroughs. This might not normally be possible because the venues typically insist a performance not happen within a certain radius of their venue. Since each venue stood to benefit if a partner was more successful than they were it made some sense to waive that clause.

I was interested to read that some of the venues were already exploring share box office arrangements. I know that theatres partnering on a production will often agree to share production costs, but this was the first I became aware of theatres engaging in box office sharing.

As part of the shared marketing effort, each venue contributed equally to the advertising spend and each provided links to the performances of all five venues on their respective websites.

Apparently the partnering venues were optimistic about the revenue potential because they agreed to a 60/40 artist-venue split rather than the typical 50/50 split.

In the end, this may have benefited the artist most. She established relationships with five venues. She was able to have a denser saturation of exposure across London than she would have had radius exclusion clauses been in place.  Potentially, she may have received more money than she would have with longer runs in fewer venues.

As Stanley-Money notes, this revenue sharing model can be beneficial when presenting new works or emerging artists because it mitigates the risk a single venue might undertake by pooling promotional expense as well as the revenue.

I am hoping that Stanley-Money follows up with a report on how successful they assessed the plan was.

For example, if a performance is in one or two places across 15 days, it may take awhile for the audience to build up as word of mouth builds and then the audiences may trail off. I would be curious to discover if that may have happened as the show appeared at five different venues. If the audience peaked at the second, third, and fourth venue, it isn’t a big problem revenue wise since all the venues are sharing.

However, if people don’t generally travel out of their borough to see a performance, there may be some exposure concerns at the venues with lower attendance. On the other hand, if they find that people who missed a local performance traveled out of their neighborhoods based on good word of mouth, it makes the cooperative partnership model look even better.

I would also be interested to learn just how easy it was to get all the venues to agree on promotional and operational arrangements. I have had experiences with groups with long histories partnering on many arrangements but could never manage to agree on promotional efforts. The fact this production was more of a second space event rather than a main stage event may have minimized the resistance.

Send this to a friend