UTS Library

All Box Office Records Smashed in 2008


Adelaide Festival Corporation

PR Company: 

communikate et al

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2008 C11 - 14



Executive Summary: 

The Adelaide Bank Festival of Arts is one of the largest multi-arts events in the world. For the first time in its history, the Adelaide Festival Corporation outsourced publicity for the Festival.

communikate et al was appointed as the PR agency for the Festival and was responsible for state, national and international publicity.

The key public relations objectives were to generate positive media coverage, profile the Artistic Director, position the Festival as one of the largest multi-arts events across the globe, and assist with ticket sales.

The 2008 Festival achieved exceptional coverage, maintained a constant presence in the media, and smashed all box office records, making it the most successful Festival to date.

Situation Analysis: 

The Adelaide Festival has built a reputation from its humble beginnings in the 1960s to become a premier event on the international arts calendar. The 2008 Festival was held between 29 February and 16 March, attracting more than 855 Australian and International artists and performers from multiple artistic genres.

Much of the motivation for outsourcing their publicity stemmed from the Festival’s desire to challenge their traditional boundaries. communikate et al was appointed as the publicist for the Festival in September 2007, with less than two months to prepare for the program launch in October, a major milestone for the 2008 event.

The month of March has developed a reputation as “Mad March” in Adelaide with multiple events being held such as the Clipsal 500, Adelaide Cup, the Adelaide Fringe and the Festival, all competing for the same media space. During this time it was imperative to differentiate the Festival from the other events in order to maintain a strong momentum of publicity.


An initial workshop was facilitated by communikate et al with the core artistic and marketing team. This proved invaluable in determining the client’s expectations, goals, target markets, key messages, risks, previous successes and failures, and 2008 program content. It was also the first step in relationship building.

communikate et al researched, developed and compiled extensive media lists of local, national and international media outlets, that connected with the target markets.

communikate et al also consulted with key media to understand any frustrations they had experienced in the past. This highlighted issues such as a perceived lack of information released in the lead-up to previous Festival program launches and enabled this to be addressed in 2008.

Target Policies: 

The primary target public was potential ticket buyers and participants in the free events. This market was an AB demographic with a distinct skew to females, as females tend to be the key decision makers, even though both males and females attend Festival events.

This audience was predominantly located in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, with some residing overseas.

Given the variety of genres and styles that existed within the eighty Festival events, each event had its own specific target public and PR strategies accordingly.

Communication Strategy: 

The strategy was designed to maximise media coverage and media relations opportunities together with some promotional activity. This was due to its cost effectiveness, given the investment available to generate a high level of awareness. It was also selected for its suitability to reaching the target publics in ways that they would find credible.

The campaign was divided into six key stages:

  1. Pre program launch (To build media relations between the Festival and key media)
  2. Program launch (To capitalise on the campaign’s most significant announcement)
  3. Mid-term campaign (To support the key sales period and associated marketing and advertising campaign)
  4. Immediate lead-in campaign (To build momentum through the media and support sales)
  5. Festival campaign (To maximise media coverage for the Festival as a whole and support the marketing effort around shows that had lower ticket sales)
  6. Wrap-up campaign (To position its success and reinforce the calibre of the event)

Each stage incorporated Brett Sheehy as the Festival’s ambassador. Brett was also positioned as a key advocate for the artistic calibre of the event.

Within this broad based strategy sat secondary campaigns around the Festival’s various events and shows. These event-based campaigns allowed communikate et al to reach specific target publics that sat within the broader ticket buying profile. For example, children’s publications were targeted for the Festival’s show for families – Children’s Cheering Carpet – and street press for the young adult market for the more controversial show – To Be Straight With You.

A detailed publicity calendar outlining target media and publicity angles was developed to ensure extensive coverage in a cross-section of publications. The calendar was an everevolving document with new publicity opportunities and milestones added constantly.

communikate et al met with the Festival’s marketing team at the start of each campaign stage to plan ahead and agree on publicity and promotional opportunities.

Regular sales reports were provided to communikate et al. On receipt of these, the communikate et al team brainstormed to ascertain the best way to generate publicity for shows with lower ticket sales. This required a high degree of flexibility and responsiveness.

Another key strategy was to ensure that the right messages about the Festival were featured in arts and non-arts media read by the target publics. A weekly reporting system was developed around this and also served to maintain open communication between both parties. This was particularly important as communikate et al worked off-site until one month before the Festival. (Refer Appendix A for an example of this reporting document)

To support the workload required for the campaign and to contribute to the industry’s professional development, communikate et al recruited a team of five volunteers who worked on the campaign from September 2007 to April 2008. A sixth team member was also added during this time.


Good relationships with the media were imperative to the success of the campaign. Media briefings proved an essential and invaluable part of the PR strategy, whetting journalists’ ‘Festival appetites’ and forging positive relationships between the media and the Festival for the remainder if the campaign.

To avoid the frustrations of previous program launches, communikate et al implemented a teaser PR campaign, gradually releasing information to strategically build excitement and brand awareness and drive ticket sales.

Below is a list of key activities that were implemented during the six stages of the campaign.

(Refer Appendix A for a more detailed list of activities)

Pre Program Launch

September and October 2007

  • Facilitated an initial workshop with key Festival team
  • Developed PR strategy
  • Compiled a comprehensive international media list
  • Drafted media materials, including 24 media releases and copy for long lead publications (Refer Appendix A for a sample of media releases that were written)
  • Conducted media briefings in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne
  • Recruited Work Experience Volunteers, facilitated induction and mentored
  • Developed Teaser Campaign strategy

Program Launch

Late October and November 2007

  • Compiled media kits
  • Implemented Teaser Campaign, including sneak peek opportunities for media partners
  • Facilitated media call
  • Facilitated and attended program launch


November and December 2007

  • Coordinated promotions for events with slow ticket sales
  • Facilitated media training for key Festival team
  • Developed Issues Management documents coupled with strategies to address each one (Refer Appendix B for the Christmas Issues Management document that was prepared)
  • Scheduled media calls
  • Set up publicity schedule for opportunities during Festival

Immediate Lead-in

January to late February 2008

  • Facilitated Visual Arts media briefings
  • Coordinated and attended Writers’ Week launch
  • Liaised with short lead media
  • Facilitated ‘sneak peek’ opportunities for media partners
  • Drafted and distributed a further 20 media alerts, releases and event notifications


Late February to Mid March 2008

  • Developed media ticketing spreadsheet
  • Facilitated 56 interviews and photo opportunities for SA media and 36 for national/interstate media
  • Attended opening night event and hosted media
  • Set up and managed Media Centre
  • Facilitated reviews


Mid to Late March 2008

  • Facilitated wrap-up media call
  • Comprehensive reporting to the client


Adelaide’s record-breaking heat wave, strained household budgets and multiple events during “Mad March” had the potential to adversely affect ticket sales. Despite these circumstances, box office sales exceeded the 2006 record by an impressive 52%. communikate et al’s highly successful PR campaign effectively challenged traditional boundaries and gave the Festival a point of difference in competitive media markets. This contributed to the 2008 Festival breaking all sales records in the 50 year history of the event. The attendance at 2008’s two free events also soared to more than 300,000, a 50% increase on 2006.

Given the depth and breadth of coverage across Festival-relevant media, communikate et al believes the PR campaign was a contributing success factor.

In excess of 1,680 media hits appeared across SA, interstate and international media throughout the entire campaign.

Campaign Statistics

  • During October an average of 34.9 media hits appeared per week, ensuring there was consistent coverage around the program launch on October 25.
  • During November and December an average of 22.6 media hits appeared per week, ensuring there was consistent coverage during the Christmas period.
  • During February and March an average of 133.4 media hits appeared per week, ensuring there was strong coverage in the lead up to and during the 2008 Festival.

Type of media

of coverage
Key achievements
Print 72%
  • 29 front cover stories
  • 301 leading stories (eg. Pieces in Arts sections, front page stories), including 221 in The Adelaide Advertiser
  • 257 hits in interstate/national press (Refer Appendix A for a small sample of the coverage generated)
Radio 15%
  • 60 interviews
  • 107 news bulletins
  • 57 radio spots on 29 February (opening day of the Festival)
TV 3%
  • 28 news stories
  • 5 ABC TV Sunday Arts stories
Online 10%
  • In excess of 74 stories on AdelaideNow


The 2008 PR campaign objectives were exceeded, achieving the following results:

  • Objective 1: Gain positive media coverage for the 2008 Festival to support its vision and brand.

Result: Media hits exceeding 1,680 appeared across South Australia, interstate and international media from September 2007 to May 2008 (this number is only anecdotal as media monitoring did not capture all results, particularly from 8 March when Media Monitors ceased to record Festival hits).

  • Objective 2: Gain positive media coverage in interstate and international media to generate interest and assist ticket sales from these markets.

Result: The number of interstate and overseas travellers to the Festival rose from 5,400 in 2006 to over 11,000 in 2008, an increase of more than 100%. 3 in 5 visitors said they would return to Adelaide for the 2010 Festival. The Festival contributed more than $14 million to the South Australian economy, an increase of almost $1 million on 2006.

  • Objective 3: Profile Artistic Director, Brett Sheehy.

Result: At least 88 stories featuring Brett appeared across print, radio, television and online media.

  • Objective 4: Assist ticket sales.

Result: Total income from Festival produced and associated events reached nearly $6 million - a 52% increase on the 2006 event.

  • Objective 5: Highlight the artistic calibre of the Festival through reviews and by targeting arts specific and non-traditional media.

Result: At least 173 reviews appeared in print and online media, and 135 media stories appeared in arts specific publications. 23 stories appeared in 11 non-traditional publications including Australian Women’s Weekly, Australian House & Garden, Belle and Indus Age.