Surely you’ve seen those eye-catching “in Wilmington” billboards and ads with musicians, painters, actors and chefs doing their thing in front of a picket fence. Or maybe you’ve come across the two-page event calendars in various publications that list scores of entertainment and cultural events scheduled for the month.
The calendars, billboards and ads just hint at the depth of the Wilmington Arts & Entertainment Marketing Initiative, which was launched earlier this year. This multi-year effort aims at three major goals—exposing Wilmington residents and those in surrounding areas to the incredible wealth of arts and entertainment offerings in Wilmington, connecting arts organizations in new ways to create co-promotions and to help foster audience crossover, and creating an easy-to-use centralized place for patrons to find out about what’s happening in Wilmington at any given time.
The New Campaign
Fortuitously, there was a previous marketing campaign on which to build: the “in Wilmington” initiative, with the theme “Wilmington—in the Middle of It All,” was developed several years ago by the city to promote business in the downtown area. Mobius New Media —the agency executing and managing the campaign—extended that concept, changing the face of it with a new logo, and adding the catch phrase “In Your Backyard”—intended to illustrate just how accessible Wilmington’s arts and entertainment offerings are (thus the picket fence on billboards and ads).
Things are changing for the better, says Campaign Manager Brianna Hansen. “With game-changers like World Cafe Live at the Queen coming to town, new nightspots like the jazz club The Nomad, and a number of new restaurants opening downtown, Wilmington’s rebirth is accelerating,” she says.
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An extensive advertising campaign has been created which includes social media plus print and outdoor advertising covering a 50-mile radius. In addition to Delaware Today, “In Wilmington” ads appear in Main Line Today, Out & About, and various News Journal Media Group publications including The News Journal, Spark Magazine, and Signature Brandywine, the News Journal quarterly magazine that goes to upper-income homes in the area.
To get the full picture of what the city and its environs have to offer—from rock to opera, bars to ballet, museums to historical sites—you must go to inWilmingtonDE.com. This ground-breaking Web site is the piece de resistance of the entire campaign.
A One-Source Resource
The sophisticated, interactive site provides complete information not only about arts and entertainment, but also about restaurants, historic sites and other points of interest, as well as downtown parking, including maps. It’s one-stop shopping for almost everything that’s happening in town.
The site is easy to navigate, so that a user can find what he’s looking for quickly, or he can spend in-depth time there. Click on “Events,” and you get the calendar—“what’s ‘in’ for the month”—screen after screen of up-to-date performances in the area, with a photo for each event. Click on the photo, and you find details about the performer as well as the event. Users can order tickets for performances in the area, receive event recommendations based on personal preferences, create their own itinerary of events, get email reminders of future events, and receive exclusive specials and promotions from places and organizations in Wilmington.
Log on to inWilmingtonDE.com
There is a mobile version for smart phones that’s particularly useful, says Matt Urban, CEO of Mobius New Media, who created the site as part of the campaign. “If you’re in town, it locates you, then tells you what events and restaurants are nearby.”
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The sheer number and diversity of the events listed on the site is astounding—except to those who work in the arts. They know that the city offers a strong entertainment and cultural structure historically anchored by five major institutions: The Grand Opera House, Delaware Theatre Company, Delaware Symphony Orchestra, Delaware Art Museum and OperaDelaware. World Cafe Live at The Queen is a new major addition, and there are scores of other first-rate arts and entertainment venues within the city and its environs.
So far, some 75 organizations are represented on the Web site. Small or large, all are included—the only criteria being that they must be arts and entertainment related. The scope is centralized in Wilmington, but extends to the suburbs, to include such venues such as Arden’s Gild Hall and Winterthur in Greenville.
“The web and mobile sites are amazing,” says Danielle Rice, director of the Delaware Art Museum. She credits the Web site for much of the success of a recent event at the museum that attracted a somewhat younger crowd—90 percent of whom said they had never been in the building previously. “Attendance far surpassed our expectations,” says Rice.
The Study that Started It All
The Wilmington Arts & Entertainment Marketing Initiative had its genesis in a 2009 study of 999 “cultural consumers”—those who attended at least two cultural activities in the past year and reside in Delaware and nearby areas of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Conducted by Slover-Linett, a noted research firm for the culture and education communities, the survey found that Wilmington’s culture and nightlife were virtually unknown to this sophisticated audience. Almost half the respondents had not attended any of the city’s major arts institutions in the last five years, and 27 percent could not name a single Wilmington cultural institution.
Those numbers got the attention of the arts community, and an advisory board was quickly formed to plan a marketing initiative. Board members are: Paul Weagraff, Director of Delaware Division of the Arts; Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald, Owner of Arts in Media; John Rago, Director of Communications and Policy Management for the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs; Marty Hageman, Executive Director of Downtown Visions; Mark Fields, Managing Director at The Grand; and the Art Museum’s Rice.
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Secretary of State Jeff Bullock was instrumental in getting the initiative off the ground, and the secretary of state’s office contributed $100,000 for the campaign’s initial year funding. Local philanthropists and arts patrons Tatiana and Gerret Copeland once again showed their deep commitment to the arts in Wilmington and generously matched that figure.
Working with Mobius, the board brought on Hansen, who had worked in the Wilmington entertainment scene for several years. She’d grown tired of hearing friends and acquaintances say, “There’s nothing to do in Wilmington.”
“That simply has never been the case,” she says. “Wilmington has always been known for its high-quality artistic programming. It’s always had a ton to offer, but there was never an easy way to view the big picture. And due to the national trend in decreased arts funding, most organizations had been marketing themselves on very limited budgets to essentially the same crowd over and over again—their patrons. Very little cross-pollination of patrons among Wilmington organizations existed, and the Slover-Linett study proved that it wasn’t due to lack of interest from those patrons, it was simply due to the fact that they didn’t even know the other organizations or programming existed.”
Advisory Board members are gratified by the cooperation they’ve encountered from all involved.
“This is the most comprehensive partnership that I’ve seen,” says Kramer-Fitzgerald, who has worked in the arts community for a decade. “It’s taken a concentrated effort, but I think we’re succeeding. The campaign has really blown up in social media channels like Facebook, and it’s demonstrating that Wilmington is a safe, vibrant place. If you’re down here, you can really see it.”
The cooperation among the organizations was one of the major hurdles the campaign had to deal with. Each organization has its own mailing list, and traditionally has promoted only its own events.
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“Organizations had been largely operating in silos,” says Urban, “communicating with only their own patrons. Now, I think they understand that helping promote their neighbor helps promote themselves.” He adds that the advisory board is encouraging collaborative events that include several organizations.
Says John Rago, who has worked for city government for 11 years, “Growing the arts will help the city’s retail business, restaurants—everything that’s happening in Wilmington. The organizations are finally coming together and understanding the power of pooling resources. And now the new branding campaign has the social networking piece and media exposure that was needed. The new Web site is something we had always dreamed about, with information on parking and restaurants, and the various city neighborhoods. Before, we had individual neighborhoods doing their own thing. Now, we’re marketing the entire city.”
Urban says the campaign has generated “strong results,” adding, “visits to the Web site are increasing quickly, along with ticket sales and link-outs to other organizations. And with the large advertising campaign we are driving them to the Web site in increasing numbers.”
He says he’s encouraged by the crowds he’s seen at recent events, especially in these tough economic times. “I think we may be past the hurdle of people being afraid to spend their discretionary dollars on entertainment,” he says. “Plus, we’re helping to showcase that there are a lot of low-cost and free events going on, including Wilmington’s first Friday art loops, things like the DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, and other free events throughout the city. People are realizing there are more interesting things to do around here than go to a movie.”
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Meanwhile, individual arts organizations are gaining more expertise in utilizing the Web site to update and promote their events. They underwent a training session this summer so that everyone is geared up for the fall, when groups like Delaware Theatre Company will begin their new season.
“The whole marketing initiative has been a very positive reflection of the cooperation among the organizations,” says Paul Weagraff. “They’re realizing that it is essential for their growth and success.”
WEB SITE FEATURES
-Explore Music, Arts & Entertainment and Dining in your backyard
-Browse events by category, date or venue
– See What’s Hot and Our Picks so you never miss a must-attend event
-Purchase tickets, or share events with friends right from the home page
Create a myWilmington Account and you can:
-Set preferences and receive recommended events based on your interest
-Save events to myWilmington and set-up email or text reminder alerts
-Participate in promotions, like the current “in” Cards QR Contest, where you can win great prizes just by enjoying local offerings
Experience all the features of the full site in an easy-to-navigate design for smart phones. Plus, What’s Near Me? a location-based feature showing events, restaurants and parking nearby in real time!