What to Consider

You have the message and images and you know from the research where your audience lives, spends free time, works, and consumes media. Now you need to decide which method is the most cost-effective way of capturing them.

Put the demographics of your target audience on a fact sheet and call in sales representatives from the media outlets that best fit your customer profile. Ask them how many viewers/readers they have and how that compares to your customer profile. Also ask about any special sections or editorial segments they have that might be of interest to your customer base. For example, always try to get into our newspaper’s Quarterly Arts Calendar issue. The salesperson will be able to give you all the information you need: the cost to run an advertisement and how many people in your target you will reach with your message. From there you can compare and choose the most cost-effective method.

When you begin talking about the rates understand that this is the asking price. Negotiate the price, not only because you are a non-profit but also because the prices on the rate card are inflated. You can choose to bargain the price down or add value to your advertisement. Try to get free color or moved up to a larger size, whatever you need to help your campaign.

You are a charity, a non-profit organization with a mission not unlike your local media (to promote education and culture in the community). Essentially, you are helping them serve their mission and you are giving them the opportunity to share in your success by promoting the event. You need free advertising space and are offering to partner with them by getting the word out that they promote education through the arts. A sample listing of the benefits Ballet Austin offers to their media sponsors is included.

Print Advertising

Newspapers and local community newsletters are great ways to reach a very targeted segment of people. If you are not going to buy ads, make sure your publicity person knows how to get into free listings and community calendars. see Sample Ad (PDF)

Producing the Ad
Be sure to keep all your advertising consistent. All newspapers have design departments that will be able to design your ads for you. Make sure you tell them you want to proof the ad before publication. Back out your deadline as far as you can.

Print ad checklist:

  • Title of the event prominently displayed
  • Your organization name and logo
  • Picture placement
  • The days and dates of the event
  • Time
  • Venue
  • Telephone number and/or place to buy tickets
  • Choreography/Music/Curated/Organized by …
  • Special discount information, such as 20% Discount for Groups of 10 or more
  • Any other special promotional information
  • If you have promised marketing benefits to your sponsors, make sure they are all included

When you give the newspaper your content information, fill out an insertion order and ask them to send you copies of the papers when they are produced. You will want to clip these ads and keep them in your records.
see Sample Insertion Order (PDF)

Radio Advertising

Radio stations offer a great way to get to a wide audience that is very targeted. For example, if you know your audience loves classical music, you still may be able to reach a larger audience if you choose a more popular station. Review your research. The advantage of radio over television is that people tend to be loyal to one radio station, whereas television audiences are loyal to certain programs (ER or Wheel of Fortune). The only exception for this would be the television news program.

Producing the Ad
The radio station will produce the spot for you. You will provide a script and the music. It would be good to find a prominent person in the community to record the ad; this could be one of the DJs or a local celebrity. Be sure they have a great voice that would sound strong on the air. It is ideal to have the same voice doing the radio and television ads as well as anywhere a voice is used so the listeners will become familiar with your product.

Sample Radio Script for The Nutcracker

(Russian Music up & under)

Voice: If you can, go with a child or – at least – someone who is a child at heart – Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker – a beloved holiday classic where children fall in love with their toys, soldiers battle a Rat King and a Snow Queen rules over all. We are pleased to welcome the world class dancers of Ballet Austin as they bring the dream alive and our own special cast of guest Mother Gingers adds a humor unique to (place). Make your holiday plans to see Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker with your entire family by calling (number). Sponsored by (sponsors). Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker. Seats start at ($) and are sure to sell out fast. Performances at (place) begin (date). Call (number).

You can also ask the radio station to do Public Service Announcements and live promotional announcements with giveaways.

One easy promotion is the “Box Office Weekend.” The station gives away tickets all weekend, and then all of those winners are eligible for a special drawing on Monday. The winner wins a Family Four Pack of tickets with a dinner gift certificate that the station or local restaurant provides.

Radio ad checklist:

  • The title of the event is prominent
  • Your organization name
  • The days and dates of the event
  • Time
  • Where the performance/event is taking place
  • Telephone number and/or place to buy tickets
  • A recognizable piece of music to use
  • Choreography/Music/Curated/Organized by …
  • Special discount information, such as 20% Discount for Groups of 10 or more
  • Any other special promotional information
  • Sponsor information

Always asks the station for a copy and keep it for your records. If you can, use the ad on your telephone system in place of the hold music.

Television Advertising

The cost of television advertising makes it very prohibitive, and it is not a very targeted method of advertising. You can, however, reach a large number of people, so if you can afford enough time on the air it can be a very effective tool.

It is important to try to get on the “Community Calendars” or Free Listings. Television stations are required to do a certain number of Public Service Announcements, and with some perseverance you may be able to get some free mentions.

Producing the Ad
You will need some good quality performance footage. This can be an expensive proposition, but you need professional quality footage.  Remember, you can use the performance footage when contacting media for press stories. Keep in mind that your ads will run next to multi-billion dollar campaigns. This is not to intimidate you, but to underscore the importance of being protective of your organization’s image. For example, Ballet Austin had to make a difficult decision about their television commercials. They could not afford to get professionally produced commercials for every production. A supporter graciously offered to produce a commercial for them pro bono. The final spot was very raw and did not convey the quality of their performances. They knew their spot would run next to million dollar commercials, making them look like amateurs. So, they decided not to run the commercial. Decide when you can do something effectively and do it well. Decide when it would be better to not do it at all.

Sample Television Script for The Nutcracker

(Russian Music up & under)

Voice: The dream begins. A promise of magic and fantasy. An invitation to a world unlike any you’ve seen. The dream is calling you to Ballet Austin’s unforgettable presentation of The Nutcracker. Your tickets are waiting, call (number) and let the dream begin.

Television Script with a giveaway:

(‘Russian” Music)

The dream begins. A promise of magic and fantasy. An invitation to a world unlike any you’ve seen. The dream is calling you to Ballet Austin’s presentation of The Nutcracker. Let us whisk your family away to The Nutcracker for free. Just mail or drop off a postcard with your name, address and phone number to the (station) Nutcracker Ticket Giveaway (station address) and be eligible for your chance to win a 4-ticket Family Pack to The Nutcracker. All entries must be received by (date) and winners will be drawn (date). Let the dream begin.

(Type on screen:) No purchase necessary. Must be 18 years or older to be eligible. One entry per household.

TV Ad checklist:

  • The title of the event is prominently displayed
  • Your organization name and logo
  • The days and dates of the event
  • Where the performance/event is taking place
  • Performance footage
  • Telephone number and/or place to buy tickets
  • Special discount information, such as 20% Discount for Groups of 10 or more
  • Any additional promotional information
  • Sponsor information

Media Sponsorship

Make it clear to your local newspaper, television, and radio stations that it is important to have the arts in your community and how wonderful it would be for their business to align themselves with your cause.

Following is a list of sample benefits you might be able to provide to media sponsors. Be sure to double check with your development office that all of these benefits are available. The worst thing you can do is to promise something you cannot deliver.

  • Ticket Benefits (try and limit your ticket giveaways)
  • Marketing Benefits
    Logo and recognition as Media Sponsor on ticket envelopes
    Logo recognition in program
    Recognition on website with hyperlink to their website
    Recognition in your Season Brochure
    Color logo displayed on all prominent signage throughout the season
    Project their logo during intermissions on front wall of the theatre (marquee-style)
    Recognition in all local, regional, and national press releases
    Recognition on all specialized promotional materials for the season
  • Advertising and Marketing
    Logo recognition on all print ads
    Logo recognition on direct mail pieces
    Recognition on posters
    Logo recognition on all print ads for season
    Logo recognition as Media Sponsor on all ads, promotions, and commercials
  • Additional
    Complimentary subscription to your newsletter
    Access to all backstage parties
    Opportunity to present flowers on stage as Media Sponsor for one production
    Green room privileges for entertaining at the performance venue
    Lunchtime presentation delivered by your outreach/education department
    Set of posters from the event signed by the artists

Display Advertising

In a recent research study, Ballet Austin learned that a great number of its audience members go to the movies frequently. They looked at the number of impressions this kind of advertising yielded, compared it to the cost of the ad, and found it to be very inexpensive. If your research tells you the same, call your local theater and get more information.

Street Banners
Billboards are wonderful but can be very expensive. There is another alternative. Many times city departments may place banners across the street of your choice for two weeks at a time. You buy a permit from the city, and production of the banner is relatively inexpensive. The cost of the net banner is expensive, but you can change the message and use it over and over again for years for a number of events. Ask the company if they have net banner you can use temporarily for a small fee.

Other Ideas
There are several additional things you can do to get your message seen by a large number of people. For example, Ballet Austin uses local children in stand-in roles for The Nutcracker. They produce signs for the children playing roles in The Nutcracker that the families can buy and place in the front of their houses. It is a very inexpensive way to market the ballet to neighborhoods and families.

From the Ballet Austin Tool-kit