Tony Award winning international musical, Avenue Q toured Adelaide from 7 January – 7 February, 2010 as part of its inaugural Australian National tour. The Sesame Street inspired musical was mostly unheard of within the Adelaide market.
The publicity campaign executed by Gray Management Group (GMG) ran from August 2009 to February 2010, targeting local media. The campaign needed to create awareness around the Adelaide leg of Avenue Q’s National tour in order to drive ticket sales including the development and management of an exclusive event. The campaign competed directly with Broadway’s Cats. Profiling the production including stage management and cast were key to driving the event locally and educating the target market.
GMG generated press coverage in excess of 60 hits across print, digital, radio and TV throughout the seven month campaign as well as successfully creating and managing a full capacity opening night and VIP event. The Adelaide season was such a success, with strong ticket sales across the season, leading to the producers extending the season by one week.
Avenue Q began Broadway production in 2003 with continued success on London’s West End where it’s been playing for the last three years. The musical is largely inspired by Sesame Street; however is not for children. Both the live characters and puppets use profanity in their dialogue and the songs address adult themes.
With Avenue Q previously running in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, the client provided a clear brief as to how the show would be perceived. Even with Tony Award and Broadway recognition, the media and marketplace were unaware and sceptical of Avenue Q. Coverage from the Eastern states did not hit SA.
The production lost key performer, Michala Banas just weeks before it arrived in Adelaide. Michala’s absence generated a challenge, as she had ties with South Australia (SA) due to her previous role in McLeod’s Daughters. As media and public were anticipating Michala’s arrival, the transition to her understudy had to be carefully managed to ensure positive coverage of her character.
The touring dates of the musical fell at a difficult time, with cast, media, and market on summer holidays. Best known musical Cats was also on tour in Adelaide from 31 December – 24 January, directly competing for coverage and ticket sales.
Avenue Q required a local public relations firm to secure and maximise coverage during the remote time. Some media outlets were closed and journalists were moved to new areas to cover shortages.
The target market was difficult to access during the holiday period. Therefore securing guest attendance, distributing tickets and communicating with guests was an intricate task.
Avenue Q’s SA production company, Arts Asia Pacific (AAP), managed the national and Adelaide tour and as a result had extensive knowledge of the arts industry. Based on previous experiences of the national tour, AAP understood that the key audiences were unfamiliar and sceptical of the show.
The offbeat, quirky and at times rude aspects of the performance made the target audience unique as far as traditional ‘musical’ theatre goes; therefore it was imperative that GMG engaged a younger audience within the non-arts demographic without alienating the current arts audience.
GMG worked closely with AAP and their partnered industry organisations to assist with ticket sale objectives given its stiff competition with Broadway hit Cats.
With the show touring over the summer break, GMG researched available key media. GMG identified appropriate spokespersons from the cast and crew that would match relevant media outlets.
GMG understands the nature of the SA market and that to best engage the younger non-art demographic is through local support of ‘mainstream’ and ‘high profile’ personalities. GMG identified Port Adelaide Football Club Joshua Carr as an ideal personality and secured him for a media opportunity.
The following key messages were developed:
(a) Avenue Q comes to Adelaide from 7 January, 2010 to Sunday 31 January, 2010.
(b) Avenue Q is a Tony Award winning musical, beating Wicked.
(c) Avenue Q is a mixture of Sesame Street meets The Muppet Show; however not suitable for kids.
(d) Directed by Jonathan Biggins, and featuring stellar cast including Mitchell Butel, Natalie Alexopoulos, David James and Luke Joslin.
The Adelaide campaign was intended for a wide demographic of the general public. Research indicated the key target group was local males and females 18 – 40 years old, particularly those not typically interested in arts.
The second target market was a sub-section of the first target public, including identified local media personalities, celebrities and key influencers. GMG was responsible in communicating the appeal of the event to them, in order to drive their attendance and word of mouth exposure.
With the wide target demographics and the reliance on publicity to drive ticket sales, GMG created a multi-layered communication strategy.
The targeted demographic weren’t accessing their usual mediums due to the holiday period therefore GMG leveraged off of key influencers who had seen Avenue Q in the UK to generate grassroots PR.
Securing publicity over the holiday period was challenging. GMG fostered alliances with relevant media to ensure the show would be well covered in the lead up to and during the campaign.
All key messages were continuously pushed including cast profiles, production synopsis and reviews. Avenue Q’s Producer along with a selection of cast members were identified as exceptional spokespersons for publicity opportunities. GMG was able to leverage a number of exclusive opportunities through these spokespersons.
Gossip pages were utilised to profile the cast celebrities and radio was identified as a terrific medium to introduce the show, the characters and their capabilities through in-studio interviews.
To create maximum exposure, GMG facilitated set up shots of the production and cast members in Adelaide instead of supplying media outlets with stock images.
GMG created a number of local angles, with the use of Port Adelaide Football Club celebrity Josh Carr and a press shot taken on Elmo Avenue in Adelaide which related to the Sesame Street concept.
The key events engaged key personalities of Adelaide’s social circle to ensure greatest buzz around the opening. The opening night event included the collation of a targeted list to ensure an exclusive attraction was generated.
The campaign’s strategy set clear timeframes for execution, to ensure saturation of media coverage in the lead up to the tour’s opening, with continued evolvement across all media outlets for the duration of the season. Media coverage was to peak in the 3 weeks of its opening to stimulate interest and awareness.
August 2009 – November 2009
Initial meetings with key media took place to introduce Avenue Q and gauge initial interest. Key media were flown to Sydney to see the show. As a result, GMG secured exclusives highlighting the musical tour as an exciting opportunity for Adelaide people.
(a) SA Media Kit sent to key media Thursday 5 November, 2009 announcing the coming to Adelaide.
(b) Interviews for long lead opportunities with magazine conducted.
(c) Researched media contacts and secured publicity opportunities before journalists went on holidays.
(d) Invitations sent to all key media in lead up to the official opening night of Avenue Q and its exclusive VIP after party, including a Save the Date. 7.3
(a) Media Alert distributed on the day of opening. Sourced images and information and scheduled interviews with arts reporters. Publicity (The Advertiser, Channel 7) confirmed for opening day. Leveraged GMG contacts to cross promote Channel 7’s footage to AdelaideNow.
(e) The tour was announced and promoted in SA’s leading glossy publications, followed by the introduction of the characters throughout other targeted local publications. This included matching characters and actors to specific radio and their demographic of listeners.
(f) Avenue Q Opening Night held Friday 8 January at Her Majesty’s Theatre followed by the VIP after party at The Hilton Adelaide. GMG managed all media enquiries, event rsvps, ticket allocations and media requests for the events. The execution of the opening night was closely managed to ensure a VIP guest list of 1700 was accommodated seamlessly.
(g) Media Release sent to key media Friday 15 January announcing Avenue Q ticket sales surpassing expectations with the season extending by one week.
The most effective achievements:
(a) Exclusive feature on Channel 7 and closer for Channel 10 outlining the Adelaide tour, interview with the producer and sneak preview of the show.3
(b) Exclusive Nova in-studio interview and other local radio coverage. 4
(c) Exclusive one page in SA Life 5, two page exclusive in Adelaide Magazine6 and front page and feature of Blaze magazine.7
(d) Multiple coverage featured in The Advertiser by Arts Editor Patrick MacDonald.8
(e) Creation of SA angles, including local celebrity Josh Carr 9 and the placement of the actors and puppets on Elmo Street in Adelaide.10
(f) Managed Michala Banas’ absence from show with soft announcement 11 and profiled her replacement with positive coverage12.
(g) Positioned Avenue Q as the key event on the SA arts calendar, in front of Cats.13
(h) Announcement of success of Avenue Q with producers extending the season by one week to accommodate the demand of the SA market. 14
(i) GMG were successful in attracting key media and VIP’s to the opening show and after party by strategically positioning the night as a highly sought after event. The event achieved capacity of 1700 guests at the opening show with 300 key media and high profile guests attending the exclusive after party event.15
(j) 63 x pieces of coverage locally
40 x Print
2 x Television
12 x Online
9 x Radio
3 Refer to Appendix A1 and DVD
4 Refer to Appendix A2
5 Refer To Appendix A3
6 Refer to Appendix A4
7 Refer to Appendix A5
8 Refer to Appendix A6
9 Refer to Appendix A7
10 Refer to Appendix A8
11 Refer to Appendix A9
12 Refer to Appendix A10
13 Refer to Appendix A11
14 Refer to Appendix A12
15 Refer to Appendix A13
(Objective 3.2(a) above) Reached 63 hits of press coverage across all media outlets. Ticket sales exceeded expectations leading to an extension of the Adelaide season by one week.
(Objective 3.2(b) above) Avenue Q’s key cast members and production management featured in 94% of the media coverage. A main feature was created and published featuring key SA personality in Her Majesty’s Theatre and the puppets on the street, which was syndicated across all Messengers, reaching the targeted wide audience.
(Objective 3.2(c) above) Of the 63 media coverage, 94% of press featured at least one key message including the explanation of how the puppets and actors interacted.
(Objective 3.2(d) above) GMG achieved 63 hits of press coverage throughout the remote time via direct and constant communication.
(Objective 3.2(e) above) GMG secured full capacity of 1700 guests to the opening night show and 300 guests to the VIP after party. The show exceeded capacity and guests were offered alternative nights. GMG managed the 1700 guest list for the opening night, including the allocation of seats and distribution of tickets seamlessly.
(Objective 3.2(f) above) Exclusive media opportunities were secured across all media including local papers, street and glossy magazines, radio, TV and business and lifestyle online outlets.
The campaign successfully raised awareness for Avenue Q through a combination of coverage on television, print, radio and online. The publicity campaign was a success in fulfilling our key objectives of creating local awareness and excitement where public was initially uninformed and sceptical. GMG effectively managed to secure extensive coverage, regardless of the absence of media during the touring period. Avenue Q gained significant publicity across the season, achieving 63 substantial hits across all media outlets.