How can art unify an increasingly global society? This question has guided the Melbourne International Arts Festival for more than thirty years. As 2016—2019 Artistic Director Jonathan Holloway recently wrote, the festival works “to connect a complex past with the emerging future, and to connect the passion of artists with the prose of society.” 

“Every year we do something completely different,” Head of Marketing David Geoffrey Hall tells ToneDen. “We have the opportunity of taking our audience on a journey.”

200,000 people make up that audience, which generates a multi-million dollar economic impact. Local, national, and international artists — musicians, performers, dancers, thespians, and beyond — grace the line-up. During the festival’s three weeks, those artists and fans will occupy more than twenty venues for single-night gigs and multi-night engagements alike.

High Performance Packing Tape by Branch Nebula

Promoting dozens of events in such a short time frame requires marketing force, and Hall is glad that the Melbourne International Arts Festival is in part powered by ToneDen. “We saw the opportunity to streamline and automate our re-marketing efforts,” he says.

“Having ToneDen running in the background, optimizing, and remarketing without us really lifting a finger, has saved us a lot of time.”

“Festivals: Terrifying and Fulfilling in Equal Measure”

Hall studied journalism and marketed Perth’s International Arts Festival before joining the team at Melbourne in 2012. He oversees ticketing, customer service, design, publicity, brand strategy, and more, but still knows that festivals are complex organisms. 

“I have worked in festivals for a very long time and find them absolutely terrifying,” says Hall. “Also entirely fulfilling in equal measure. A lot of the work that we present is from a country you’ve never been to by an artist you’ve never heard of with a name you can’t pronounce. And that to me is a huge challenge, but also so fulfilling to introduce people to new types of art or new artists, make them think differently about other worlds.”

Melbourne Art Trams by Matthew Clarke

To introduce fans to those new types of art, Hall’s marketing team was running numerous individual campaigns ads — manually, through Ads Manager. “We were setting up the audiences for people who’d visited but hadn’t purchased and running individual campaign ads on particular events. And it was working really well. We’d been doing that for many years. It generates a lot of profit, but it also takes up a lot of time.” 

Still, when Hall heard about ToneDen, he saw a way to devote his team’s time to higher-level work. “Why are we spending time setting up audiences when my team’s time could be better spent generating content or thinking strategically?” he says. “In a market where our audiences are spoiled for choice and in turn buy tickets really late, any avenue that helps drive them to purchase early is meeting my targets.”

“Why are we spending time setting up audiences when my team’s time could be better spent generating content or thinking strategically?”

Impact of DEAS

Though this is the first year that Melbourne International Arts Festival is using ToneDen, the impact it’s already seeing is tremendous.

For festivals prior, Hall’s team had to make tough decisions about which events to spend its marketing dollars and advertising efforts on — typically, about ten shows. That’s a lot of programming going un-promoted. 

This year, though, Hall’s using ToneDen’s Dynamic Event Ads (DEAs, for short). A digital update to the old-school calendar ads, DEAs let marketers advertise an entire calendar or line-up of events with one single campaign. Fans who express interest in, say, The Flaming Lips’ act at the Festival will continue to see ads for that event; if the show sells out, those ads would stop. 

“We spend a lot of time planning who the target audience for a particular show might be,” Hall says, “but we’ve never really handed over the reins in this kind of prospecting dynamic ads ways.” 

But handing over the reins has paid off. Spending only A$861 so far, Melbourne International Arts Festival has brought in more than A$27,600 — a 32.1x current return on ad spend.

“With all of this automated through ToneDen,” Hall says, “we have the ability to share the love across every single event. So everything in our product catalog can benefit from really cheap remarketing efforts and hopefully drive a higher conversion value.”

“Artists Will Be Our Saviors”

“To work in this kind of industry it’s to offer some escapism and some ability to view the world through someone else’s lens and someone else’s perspective,” Hall says. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of that. I think artists will be our saviors.”

As Melbourne International Arts Festival prepares for a transformation in 2020 (stay tuned!), Hall is enthusiastic about ToneDen, especially its ability to unite disparate fans. “We work in a luxury product space—not everyone can afford paid art experiences—but there are people out there who are interested in attending our events, interested in taking a break from the everyday, and sitting in a theater or going to a gig. It’s our job to get to those people. If we’re going to be in their social channels, then we need to be providing that contextually relevant content.”

“Marketing is being able to deliver tailored campaigns that use the data that you have about people to drive relevant content.”