Neil Simpson
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The CCA were able to relate SIMD profiles and locations of its existing attenders to the communities they wanted to broaden their engagement. They used this to tailor and target marketing communications.

A version of this story appeared in the September 2017 issue of the Journal of Arts Marketing (JAM).

Background – When the Third Eye closes

With its origins in the radical and avant-garde Third Eye Centre, the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) is a key cultural institution in Glasgow; a city known around the world for the art and artists that have emerged from it, as well as the multi-dimensional relative deprivation that affects many people there. CCA’s year-round programme of events includes contemporary art, film, music, literature, spoken word, festivals, Gaelic language events, and performances, with an emphasis on access, inclusion and diversity.

CCA has an innovative open source programming policy. Proposals from across all communities are welcomed and supported with the CCA’s signature collaborative approach; they offer practical resources – access to facilities and technical support to help make grassroots projects happen. Resulting events occur alongside CCA’s curated programme. In 2016-17 they worked with 253 programme partners to deliver 1075 events and 26 festivals, which attracted over 50,000 event admissions from 335,650 visitors to the building, more than ever before.

The brief – who’s not coming to CCA?

The communications team at CCA wanted to know more about the people who have and have not been coming to CCA’s events, in order to inform future programming and to target communications. They wanted to ensure the programme engaged socially-excluded audiences who are perceived as less likely to attend arts venues like CCA. And, they wanted baselines that would allow them to assess their performance over time.

Specifically, they wanted to understand more about people who did and did not attend their different ticketed events; gallery exhibitions; and the public engagement activities delivered collaboratively across Glasgow since 2016. In order to widen their reach and improve their frontline engagement, they also wanted to find out about local organisations they could collaborate with to engage people they hadn’t been reaching.

Culture Republic’s approach – you are your postcode

Crucial to our approach was building on the legacy of the CCA’s existing audience data. The team have a technique of gathering postcodes from not just ticket bookers, but gallery visitors too. We worked with the CCA to develop this practice several years prior, after the team raised concerns that box office sales didn’t fully represent the visitors who were coming through the building and that invigilators needed a simple, anonymous, and fast tool to unlock more information about their audiences. There’s a lot you can do with a postcode and a variety of postcode-based tools allow you to infer things about the people that live in areas of interest.

For the CCA’s new project we used a dataset created by the Scottish Government, the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, or SIMD. It combines seven different types of information to profile all residential areas in Scotland, broken down into geographic data zones containing 500 to 1000 people. This generates a multi-dimensional, relative ranking of each area, based on measures of income, employment, health, education, skills and training, housing, access to services and crime, which are then weighted to have different impacts on the overall measure of deprivation. Postcodes are allocated to one of these data zones, providing summary information about the people who live there. Most importantly, SIMD provides a nuanced picture, covering much more than financial poverty.

In order to find out more about who was and wasn’t attending CCA’s events, we compared the SIMD profile of CCA’s audiences with the SIMD profiles of Scotland and Glasgow overall. This enabled us to see how people living in different data zones, and so experiencing different relative deprivation, were over or under represented in CCA’s event audiences.

What we found – beyond the top line

In 2016, we provided baseline figures to CCA, indicating the extent to which people from the most deprived data zones were coming to its events. Consistent with much of the rest of the arts sector, CCA was attracting proportionately fewer people from the most deprived data zones than their prevalence in the populations of Scotland and Glasgow. It gave the CCA team a clear indication of where to focus their efforts to reach more people who were likely to be experiencing greater levels of relative deprivation.

How the CCA put the insights to work

By segmenting their audiences in this way, CCA were able to relate the SIMD profiles and locations of its existing attenders to the communities they wanted to broaden their engagement. They used this to tailor and target marketing communications.

CCA used the findings to inform a direct distribution marketing campaign, consisting of a short guide containing festivals and key events taking place at CCA throughout the year. This was sent to a targeted audience in communities with higher levels of relative multiple deprivation, which included people who had already attended CCA’s events. The theory was there were likely to be more potential audience members in these communities. By helping them to easily find something that relates to their current interests (be it folk music, graphic novels, storytelling, film and so on) they would be encouraged to visit CCA, and so be introduced to the building, staff and very broad range of events that take place there.

A year on, we helped the CCA team assess their progress. The data showed that attendance at public engagement events by people from the most deprived communities grew substantially from 2016 to 2017, indicating that our research helped CCA identify, and begin to work with local organisations to attract people from relatively deprived communities. Positive progress has been made to increase engagement and participation from attenders from communities with higher relative deprivation.

In the future, the team at the CCA will be working to make progress with their overall audience makeup. We’re looking forward to supporting the team to measure their continued progress with what has become embedded good practice – yearly SIMD analyses.

Main image credit: Photo Temporary Services & Half Letter Press, Booklet Cloud, 1998-2017 courtesy of CCA. Copyright CCA 2017.