Time was when distributing and putting up posters to promote an upcoming show, play run or performance made up the bulk of marketing efforts for a performing arts group. Between large posters and small handbills or postcards, advertising could be done relatively cheaply and potential audience members were trained to look for the posters on bulletin boards and shop windows to see what the upcoming performing arts events were. But, have those times changed? Are posters becoming obsolete, ineffective and a waste of money for performing arts marketing?
The fact is, it depends on your area, your community, your audience and your competition as to whether posters can still work for your organization or not. Chances are, you can definitely no longer get away with just using posters as the only way to spread the word about your upcoming shows. The world of advertising has become complicated and multi-dimensional. Before you give up on postering all together, you need to evaluate your other marketing options and find out how best to spend your limited marketing budget.
How are audience members finding available shows? Increasingly they are going to the internet to find entertainment calendars and order tickets. Others still gather their information from print advertising-newspapers and other print publications. Also, you’ve got television and radio advertising to consider. If you live in a relatively dense urban area, people may still see your posters-but if you are in a smaller town (even a mid-size town with a strong suburban element), you may need to really target your postering and scale down the efforts, or you might be able to do away with posters all together.
If you have got the staff time (or volunteer time), it might be worth your while to do an audience survey to find out the role that posters are playing in letting them know about upcoming shows. Older attendees may still expect to find out about arts events from posters and they may be on the look-out when they frequent their favorite businesses. But if your audiences are getting increasingly younger-they are likely getting their information from the world wide web.
Putting some effort into trying to deduce where your audience members are hearing about your shows can better help you target your marketing and make the most of a limited marketing budget. But, you may be able to save some money for other marketing by not paying for the artwork, design and printing of ineffective posters.