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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

Finding the right audience

The creators of the Tesco Clubcard scheme are treading the boards with a seven-figure investment in theatre analytics company Purple Seven. Edwina Dunn, now running H&D Ventures, talks to Research about her move into Theatreland.

“The greatest credit and satisfaction we got was when someone said it was surprising that they got stuff that they actually liked and stuff that they wanted. That’s what we want to do in entertainment”

Edwina Dunn and husband Clive Humby are best known for creating the Tesco Clubcard scheme. Now, having started H&D Ventures, the pair decided to take their two decades-worth of experience in analysing shopper data into the world of theatre with a substantial investment in analytics company Purple Seven.

“We’ve spent a year looking at various elements to what we think is going to give an interesting capability around consumer engagement in the future,” says Dunn. “And the thing that interests us is the idea of audience, and how you can’t really know an audience if you don’t have data – and Purple Seven know quite a lot about the nineteen million people who book theatre tickets.”

Dunn says that there were few data sources out there that genuinely gave an idea of people’s lifestyles and she adds that there was a “fantastic story to tell” about how people consume the performing arts.

“The fact that some people choose musicals and some people choose orchestral music or some people choose pantomime rather than the Comedy Store – that’s really interesting and that is going to give us the power to be new story tellers,” she adds.

The experience factor
Dunn says that the ultimate aim is to give theatregoers a better experience so that they are more excited and more engaged with what they are offered: “If we can build loyalty then we can bring in more sales, we can fill theatres and we can probably bring more commercial money into the arts because we know our audience and we can help to drive that engagement and knowledge.”

Twenty years on from Clubcard, Dunn believes that her and Humby’s experience of using data to work out what’s relevant to people can translate into the theatre world.

She says: “The greatest credit and satisfaction we got was when someone said it was surprising that they got stuff that they actually liked and stuff that they wanted. That’s what we want to do in entertainment. Instead of being told, ‘You will love this show, it’s right up your street’ – which everyone gets told – we’ll focus on saying, ‘We’ve worked out what we think is the one show that you would like the most.’”

However, analytics will not replace creativity nor the chance of a break-out hit, Dunn says. “I don’t think there is any replacement for that; that’s the skill of the industry. That creativity is not replaced by science. That is the whole magic of the industry which I think we exist alongside.”

Next steps
Purple Seven is not an end-game for H&D Ventures. According to Dunn, there are still avenues that the company wants to explore.

“You will not be surprised to hear that we are very interested and focused primarily on the mobile area where there is very rich and powerful data, and also the social network world where people live online.”

“Those areas are fascinating to us,” she says. “We are on a journey in that direction.”

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