Marketing for theatres and their shows is increasingly moving to embrace digital technologies, and the latest trend over this year appears to be that of online videos hosted on YouTube. Trailers, rehearsal footage, interviews and exposing the behind-the-scenes activity of a production, theatres are thriving in this new online marketing medium.

Why are online videos important you might ask? Quite simply it is a marketing tool that when made correctly can really give a new dimension to a show and one that I honestly believe can help (or indeed hinder) the selling of tickets. It’s all very well being able to read about a show and possibly know of the artists or actors involved, but what if you can actually get a sense of the show visually. Videos fill this void, because photos can only go to show so much.

For shows that are especially visual – dance, puppetry, multi-media performances – being able to see some of these visuals in a video online can really get an audience excited. It’s all very well describing the rotating stage and projection work but your descriptive words can easily be seen as marketing material to sell to us – videos don’t just sell a show, they literally show a show.

I’ve selected a few online videos from theatres which have truly embraced what the potential of this medium can do in igniting our imaginations and sell us a ticket.

Hampstead Theatre – Enlightenment

My response: Taking on elements from the play itself, and using an editing style similar to thriller TV Dramas, The Hampstead Theatre really capture the tense atmosphere that Enlightenment is meant to deliver. Similarly the music composed for the video really adds a level of attention especially when coupled with the quick editing between images.

The RSC – Matilda Trailer

My response: At first I didn’t really like this trailer for the RSC’s new musical Matilda, for me it didn’t convey anything other than a glimpse at what we might expect from the show. Having watched it a few times, this is exactly the reason why I like it now. It shows the magic, the excitement, the anticipation behind the show – a small snapshot that is beautifully shot. Anyone notice how similar it is to a trailer for a feature film? Excellent work.

BAC – 1-on-1 Festival

My response: The BAC had a hard time with selling their truly unique and one of a kind, one-on-one festival – mostly because it was so unique and a daunting prospect for some audiences. What this video manages to do is capture an essence of what can be expected. It shows off the building itself beautifully, and really makes it clear that the audience are in for a truly unique experience. If anything the video gets notablw praise for creating something rather scary in itself!

Bush Theatre – Who We Are and What We Do

My response: Yes it lacks sound – but for someone who has only been to the Bush Theatre once it really exposes the theatre to its audience. Showing you the offices, backstage, a get-in happening, and most importantly it tells the story and exactly what the theatre does.

A Younger Theatre – Theatre at Glastonbury

Even A Younger Theatre has used videos to report on theatre activities such as uncovering theatre happenings at the Glastonbury Festival, showing that videos can be editorial as well as marketing.

Yet it’s not just pretty images and words in these videos that truly make them worthwhile it is also the statistics. Hosting the videos on YouTube allows for them to be searchable and discovered through watching other videos. Equally they can be embedded on other websites like I have done here which in turn allows the marketing to be spread. Some of videos featured have received thousands of views, and this number will grow month by month through people discovering them. Even once a show is over, this online material can still filter into showing what kind of work you can do.

From a marketing point of view, YouTube is now owned by Google, and as we all know Google is brilliant at giving you statistics that reflect your audience and for free. Their Insight statistics are comprehensive, showing you the age range of views, their attention spans, how they discovered the videos and so forth. This information is vital in developing and monitoring your audiences.

I can already hear people saying the obvious: creating videos of a high professional standard costs – and this cost we can’t afford. My reply: Think imaginatively! Use the skills of those around you, hold a competition for young budding film makers to create your next marketing video. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you can’t produce something as high quality at these videos featured because you can – it just takes a little proactive thinking and doing.

Creating online material such as videos does however have a drawback, and one that should be considered when creating your videos. What if your audience don’t like what they see in the video? Can they actually be put off? I believe so. Online videos allow for your work to be exposed – and if they don’t like what they see, they won’t be buying a ticket. I recently was turned off from buying a ticket to a dance show because they showed in their marketing material sections from the show, and it didn’t appeal. In fact, I heard from other potential audience members who equally were put off from buying because of the video in question. Be aware of how much of a show you might want to expose, and when it might be better to create a video of something other than the show itself for fear of pushing your audience away.

If videos are used for marketing purposes it’s important to think imaginatively. Don’t just use them with the hope your audience will appreciate them, use them to further your relationships, and remember: YouTube also falls into social media, so get social – response to comments and allow for embedding and video responses!

What videos recently caught your eye? Has theatre videos made you buy a ticket based on what you saw? What do you make of those I have featured – are they ahead of their time, or boring? Comment below!


Insights explained
Vimeo (More ‘arty’ videos)
Uploading a video on YouTube