The challenge
Erewhon, New Zealand playwright Arthur Meek’s collaboration with Edinburgh’s Magnetic North, was coming to Summerhall for its European Premiere. This multi-media play, adapted from a Victorian science fiction novel by Samuel Butler, brought together an iPhone and its 19th-century predecessor the magic lantern. Well known for his one-man shows, Arthur Meek was joined on stage by electro-folk-pop musician Eva Prowse.

Our tasks were to encourage the press to review the show early, and to reach specific audiences to hit attendance targets. We had three months lead time and a small communications budget to work with.

What we did
This was the first time we had to fill the same theatre every day for a month. A communications plan with solid research behind it was vital.

In May, we read the Bible of Fringe show success, kept a close eye on Fringe tips offered by journalists, and digested the webinars offered by the Fringe society.  The Fringe audience was hard to pin down in terms of discovering effective marketing channels, and we knew that their booking habits would create heart in mouth moments.

Early on, we made contact with the theatre critics we’ve worked with before – flagging up the show and asking how they like to plan their Fringe diary. We wrote and distributed a media release, and contacted journalists with a variety of angles.

For digital channels, we put together a content plan, so we’d have a library of materials for the website and social media. These included producing a trailer, arranging competitions, sourcing guest bloggers, and pulling together images and music from the artists involved.

Erewhon at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018 – Trailer from Magnetic North on Vimeo.

Magnetic North told us that we needed to work hard to reach specific interest groups. James had long admired the poster distribution methods used by circuses. From talking to Edinburgh shop owners, we discovered that circuses offer retailers free tickets in exchange for putting up posters. With that in mind, we hired a team to visit shops related to Erewhon – bookshops, antique shops, computer, gaming, magic, music and sci-fi stores. We built our own poster distribution network to reach new audiences and to encourage word of mouth from retailers.

As 1 August approached, we sent reminders to the press about the opening night, and posted a box to key critics containing an invite card and a magic lantern slide.

Once the show was running, we were on hand to provide images and arrange press interviews. We supervised a flyering team and managed the production of a vox pop video. Every day we were in close contact with the venue – checking that reviews were live on their website, and that they were added to the posters outside. Throughout the run, we tracked sales, maintained contact with the press and managed digital content.

Erewhon: audience reactions from Magnetic North on Vimeo.

We also:
>Worked with Creative New Zealand’s PR contact
>Email newsletter production
>Approval of materials by Playmarket New Zealand, Playwrights’ Studio Scotland and Creative New Zealand
>Briefing and managing print design, production and distribution
>Social media management
>Outdoor media buying
>Media partnership with The List
>Media monitoring
>Online advertising.

What we achieved

The show was seen by over 700 people (breaking the attendance target). Press coverage included reviews by Edinburgh Festivals Magazine, The Herald, The List, Broadway Baby, Fringe Guru and The Stage. Erewhon was a Lyn Gardner pick of the Edinburgh Festival in The Independent. Four reviews were published in the first week of the run. A huge bit of excitement (for James at least!) was generated when we secured coverage in the science fiction blog BoingBoing.net (one of the most widely-linked and cited blogs in the world).

We built a network of specialist Edinburgh retailers who displayed show print and came to the show early on to boost word of mouth.

On digital channels, features were repurposed into blogs, email newsletters, and social posts, including ‘Using technology in theatre’, and we setup competitions to win artwork by magic lantern slide designers. There was also a set of bad jokes. Guest bloggers included a historian of technology, a Digital Pedagogy Specialist from Indiana University and the Chairman of the Magic Lantern Society. There were an incredible 3,600 views of the video trailer on Facebook.

Our team witnessed first hand how cost effective flyering can be – as long as the targeting is spot on to reach an adventurous Fringe audience.

During the run, a number of venues and festivals came to see the show with a view to future touring.

So, did Erewhon rise above the 3,547 other shows? According to The List, Erewhon ranked in the top 10% of ‘Shows of 2018‘.

If you are bringing a show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2019 or 2020, please get in touch if you would like us to help with PR, audience development, cross promotion or advertising media title selection.