Archive for the ‘TATE’ Category

Tate Movie Project

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

‘The Itch of the Golden Nit’ is a 30-minute animated film which has been created from ideas and drawings crowdsourced from children aged five to 13.

Children uploaded their ideas, drawings, animations and even sound effects, through the Tate Movie Project website and could even vote on what should make it into the final cut.

The website is quite brilliant encouraging children to sign up with their own custom avatar and giving them lots of different ways to get involved. For example Tate asked children to vote on which celebrities they would like to see play cameo roles of pirates, superheroes, mermaids and planets in the final feature.

The online studio received more than 500,000 visitors during a twelve month period and Tate ran workshops at galleries, schools and festivals across the UK to encourage children to use art as inspiration for their drawings and story ideas.

Around 2000 children’s work was pulled together by Aardman to make the final film, with multiple drawings making up each scene.

The project is beautifully executed, connecting a large number of children with art and Tate. As Nicholas Serota puts it, “What’s exciting about the Tate Movie Project is that we can see their flashes of imagination come to life in animation. This project has provoked some astonishing work by children of all backgrounds, some of whom may well be the artists and creatives of the future.”

Social sharing

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter are essentially a person-to-person networks and while businesses and cultural institutions may try to leverage these for marketing, most are missing its full potential by treating this new media as they did the old.

In the real world, people share their opinions on the world around them, and this kind of conversation is the most powerful influence on the products we buy, and the way we choose to spend our free time.

Research shows that a recommendation from a friend is more powerful than broadcasting advertising messages, and on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter the same is true.

Personal recommendation isn’t new of course, ten years ago I might have told a handful of people about a new exhibition or a performance I’d enjoyed, but social media amplifies this ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing, so instead of me having to go and tell each person about an experience, in one click I can spread the word to hundreds, or thousands of people.

I think that cultural institutions need to rethink how they are approaching social media, moving from the perspective of ’what do we want to say?’ to ‘how do we get people to talk about us?’.

There are many ways that you can make it easier for people to advocate on your behalf or encourage them to talk about your cultural institution.

Get people to ‘like’ you.

Facebook and other social media websites make it easy for people to share things that interest them with their friends through ‘social sharing’ buttons.

These share buttons can be added to any page on your website through a simple line of code and when someone clicks this, a link to the relevant content appears on the relevant social network, sharing this information with their friends.

The average Facebook user has 130 friends, but research shows that the people who click Facebook ‘Like’ buttons have on average twice as many friends on the social network.

Ultimately I think this technology will step beyond the internet, for example a museum could have a ‘Like’ button next to a painting, and when a visitor swipes their smart phone next to this, it instantly posts a link on your Facebook wall.

Ask people for reviews

One way that TATE get people to talk about their exhibitions is through a reviews section on their Facebook page. This is an incredibly powerful advert for their exhibitions with real people sharing their experiences of TATE.

TATE use a free Facebook app called ‘Reviews’ to power this functionality on their Facebook page, and any museum or gallery could add this to their own page in minutes.

If you do choose to add reviews to your Facebook page, you need to also consider how you are going to inform people about this. You could use signage in your venue to inform visitors that you would like them to leave a review or if people are buying tickets, take their email addresses and send them an invitation to leave a review the following day.

Take in a lodger

Another interesting way to get a member of the public to share their experiences of a cultural institution is to invite someone to live in it. That is what the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago did when they ran a contest to find someone to live in their museum for a month.

The museum received over 1500 applications to live in the museum, and they selected a woman called Kate as the winner.

She did experiments, spoke to visitors and shared her experience with members of the public through a blog, through videos and through Twitter. Having an individual who is one step removed from the institution gives this social content more credibility than if the museum had written it themselves.

While in this case it was a museum that took in a lodger, I could imagine that this could also work for other cultural institutions, imagine a theatre enthusiast sharing a behind-the-scenes look at a new play taking shape.

Treat bloggers like rockstars

You don’t have to go to the extreme of having someone live in your cultural institution to get them to write about you, just reach out to bloggers.

Blogger outreach is increasingly becoming common place. It takes a little research to build a ‘press list’ of bloggers who matter, either in your geographic area or in your field, but the results can be impressive.

For an exhibition which I developed two years ago, I made friends with four or five relevant blogs. Collectively they had a readership of over 100,000 each day, and that was a very targeted readership of individuals interested in the subject of my exhibition.

Once you have a list of bloggers who can be useful to your organisation, invite them to press previews and encourage them to write about your exhibitions, events or performances by giving them access to photography to illustrate a blog post.


Your social media activity should not just be focused on what you want to say, you should be constantly looking for opportunities to get others to talk about you.

How can you use social media to get people talking about your exhibition, performance or event?


This article was written by Jim Richardson, founder of
Europe’s major conference on social media for museums, MuseumNext and managing director of Sumo, a creative agency with a reputation for developing innovative digital marketing.

Jim regularly speaks at conferences and contributes to publications on social media and digital marketing.


6 Arts Marketing Trends from the UK

Sunday, February 13th, 2011


This is a presentation given by MuseumNext founder Jim Richardson at the British Council Digital Creative Conference, Tokyo. (It is also available in Japanese here.)

The heart of what I am going to talk about today is how arts institutions in the UK are responding to the changing expectations of their audiences through their marketing.

The driving force behind this change has been the internet, which over the past decade has moved from a place where people go to find information, to a place to create, curate and share content online.

Our society has undergone a socio-cultural shift, with audiences moving from being passive consumers of information to active participants who want to have their say.

In this new reality, cultural institutions have had to move beyond traditional advertising campaigns, and relying on positive reviews from a few trusted critics. After all, now everyone is empowered to be a critic, with the ability to share their opinions with potentially millions of people through popular social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.

Today’s cultural consumers are perhaps more informed then ever before and with this shift, the arts are moving from untargeted advertising to focusing on engagement.
1. Going Social

Facebook is the most popular social network in the UK, with an estimated user-base of 24 million, and the starting point for many institutions has been to establish pages on this website.

This makes a lot of sense, taking content about the arts in to a space where a lot of people are spending time.

The vast majority of UK arts venues have a presence on Facebook, and TATE is perhaps the most successful of these with over 140,000 Facebook users choosing to show their affiliation with the gallery.

One of the advantages of taking an institution like TATE on to Facebook is that users of this website engage with them on a level which simply doesn’t happen on a traditional website. For example, content posted on TATE’s Facebook page regularly receives over 100 comments from members of the public.

The other major social media platform in the UK is Twitter. TATE are also very active on this website, with over 246,000 people signing up to subscribe to news from the gallery through this website. This makes TATE the most popular British brand on Twitter.

Marketing to arts audiences through Facebook and Twitter is quite different from traditional advertising. People spend a lot of time in these digital spaces and they don’t respond well to a stream of sales messages. Instead arts organisations need to build relationships and brand recognition, confident that research shows that those choosing to be affiliated with a brand on social networks are more likely to spend money with them.

TATE have walked the fine line between building a community and selling their product remarkably well, with discounts to Facebook fans proving a particularly successful route to create measurable ticket sales.

2. Starting conversations

While holding engaging conversations is key to social networks, we are increasingly seeing a desire from cultural consumers to continue this on the websites of arts institutions.

In response, museums are changing their approach to websites from places to find information to more personalized, engaging and social experiences.

One such example is Yorkshire’s Favourite Paintings, a website which brings together collections from 24 art galleries and museums. Like a traditional collection, this provides information about the artworks and the artists who painted them, but the central premise of the website is to ask the public for their opinion.

The public are encouraged to do this by an incentive of winning a replica painting, or as the website promises ‘Tell us about your favourite painting and you can take it home with you’.

While traditionally the Museum may have valued the what the curator or an art critic think about a painting, this website acknowledges that audiences also have an opinion on art.

One painting could be selected by several people as their favourite, each with their own story of what the artwork means to them. Often these stories are quite personal. For example, one person wrote about how his grandmother had told him that a portrait looked like her as a young woman, something which he didn’t believe until she showed him a photograph, and now he wished to win a copy of the painting to give to his grandmother.

The stories give people a different starting point when approaching the art and the galleries. The opinions may be different from those of the curators but are just as valid.

The website has generated positive buzz around the galleries that contain the 100 paintings featured on the website. Perhaps the perfect response comes from a Twitter user called @fletchthemonkey: ‘Blown away by the quality of the paintings hanging in @YorkshiresFav, I think the weekend plans are now revised to going to see some!’

Another example of an arts organization bringing lessons learnt from the social web into their own website is National Theatre Wales, an organization founded in 2008.

Perhaps because the theatre was born in the midst of the social media revolution, it has put an emphasis on building a community of theatre-makers and theatre-goers who together can create performances that change the way we look at the world.

The National Theatre Wales website is the platform for this exchange; a social network of over 2,500 people who have helped shape everything from the individual productions to the direction of the organisation as a whole.
National Theatre Wales states that theatre has always been about forming a relationship with audiences and not just selling tickets. But by forming a community around their work, they are encouraging conversation about their work and a sense of belonging, ownership or affiliation with the organisation.

This kind of positive word-of-mouth is incredibly powerful. This is because personal recommendations have always been more effective than traditional advertising and social media magnifies these conversations, broadcasting them to countless people.

3. Crowdsouring

The Royal Opera House is not perhaps the most obvious place to find innovative uses of technology; it is perhaps one of the more traditional arts institutions in London.

However, in 2009, the Royal Opera house turned to Twitter to ask members of the public to help them to compose a new libretto, one 140 characture tweet at a time, a so-called Twitter Opera.

This wasn’t really a serious attempt to create a masterpiece, but instead an exercise in reaching out to people who might not think that opera was for them.

The Twitter Opera caught the imagination of members of the public, 900 of whom enthusiastically made suggestions for the final piece. The suggestions were molded in to a 20 minute production by professional composers, and was performed at the Royal Opera House.

While critics had their knives out for the production, the finished result received positive reviews with one newspaper columnist describing it as “actually watchable, listenable and rather funny.”

The initiative attracted a large amount of press attention, generating publicity for the organization both in the UK and further afield, and this together with online buzz attracted 1,000 people to the Royal Opera House across four performances.

This idea of co-producing the arts with members of the public has been embraced by a broad range of institutions from the stage to the museum, changing these organisations from being places to see the arts to platforms for creativity.

This fulfills the changing expectations of British audiences who increasingly want more participatory experiences.

An arts project which took this to an extreme was an exhibition called Democracy that took place in the North of England in 2009.

This project aimed to create the most democratic exhibition in the world. It not only asked members of the public to submit artworks through an open call for entries, but also to select what should be exhibited by voting online.

340 artworks were submitted through the website over a five week period and the most popular 50 pieces were exhibited in a gallery.

The competition to gain enough votes to be shown in the exhibition meant that each participant began marketing the exhibition to their network of friends, spreading the word virally through Facebook and Twitter.

These two social networks were responsible for sending over 5000 visitors to the Democracy website over the five weeks that the project was open, making them an important source of publicity for the exhibition.

In the gallery, this concept of Democracy was continued where the fifty artworks were projected digitally and visitors could vote for their favourite artworks from their mobile phones. A vote would increase the size of the preferred artwork, and decrease the size of those around it, making the exhibition get better over time, in the eyes of the public (who were therefore the curators). This format of a constantly evolving exhibition encouraged visitors to keep coming back to the gallery.

Crowdsourcing is a particularly popular trend with UK arts institutions, and many are using this approach to reach out to their audiences by appealing to their creative side. And while the idea of an exhibition which has been curated by the public may run the risk of being accused of ‘dumbing down’, the trend shows no signs of disappearing.

4. Beyond the walls

With audiences struggling to find the time to experience the arts, technology is allowing arts organisations to find new ways to fit in to people’s busy schedules.

In May 2010 the Museum of London launched a free iPhone app which lets anyone experience a piece of history in over 200 sites across London.

Looking at the screen of your iPhone you can overlay moments from history across the scenes of the present day. These can be viewed as ghostly alignments, or the archive images can be brought up and explored in detail, along with information about Streetmuseum’s photographs and paintings.
The app itself was a marketing tool, launched just ahead of the museum opening new galleries, and it attracted a large amount of free publicity with large features about it in several British newspapers.

I think that where the app really works is in making the Museum of London more accessible to an audience which may not traditionally visit the museum, when faced with the overwhelming cultural choices London has to offer.

Another UK arts initiative which is using modern technology to reach new audiences is National Theatre Live. This broadcasts theatre live to cinemas around the world.

On 25 June 2009, the first of these broadcasts carried Nicholas Hytner’s production of Racine’s Phèdre to 70 digital cinemas across the UK to an audience of 14,000 people and another 14,000 people saw it live in the rest of Europe or North America. The final audience figure for this one performance, when allowing for subsequent screenings, is estimated to be around 50,000 people.

Research carried out by the National Theatre in the UK found that NTLive reached new audiences. Most of those who attended the screenings found out about them through the cinemas showing the productions which indicated that the National Theatre was tapping into cinema audiences rather than losing its own audiences to this low cost alternative.

In fact 33.9% of those who saw the production in cinemas said that watching an NTLive screening had encouraged them to see a production at the National Theatre.
Many other UK arts institutions are also developing new ways for audiences to engage with them through technology, with iPhone applications being an especially popular way to do this.

Many, like NTLive, are discovering not only new ways to reach audiences but new revenue streams which can help support their core activities.

5. Collaboration

On the same day that the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s memoir, A Journey, was published to considerable media reaction and controversy, discussion of another topic entirely was topping the trend charts on Twitter.

A one–day event, called Ask a Curator harnessed the networked power of museums and galleries on Twitter to create a global dialogue between members of the public and curators.

340 curators from institutions around the world took part in an event which would have been impossible before the advent of social media technology. Over 10,000 messages were exchanged between museums and members of the public over the course of 1 September 2010.

By working together, these museums and galleries were able to shout above the noise of social media networks and get noticed both by press who picked up on the story around the world and by the public, many of whom were surprised by what they might have perceived as ‘stuffy’ institutions opening their doors to questions on Twitter.

One member of the public commented ‘At last, museums are doing something useful with Twitter, rather than just sending me marketing messages’.

However, Ask a Curator was a very effective marketing campaign. An evaluation found that the majority of those who asked questions said they intended to visit the museums who answered them.

The success of Ask a Curator has been emulated by Ask Shakespeare, Ask a Conductor and several other groups since it took place in September, showing that this form of collaboration can work across several art forms.
A Night Less Ordinary is another project which has brought together arts venues to reach new audiences, in this case young people who haven’t visited a theatre before.

Since February 2009, this government-funded initiative has offered people under 26 free theatre tickets for over 200 theatres across England, the simple premise being that cost is a major barrier to this group attending the theatre.

Young people signed up to get free theatre tickets through a website which brought together performances from across England, providing one easy-to-use website.

The initiative has given away over half a million theatre tickets, and addee these names to the mailing lists of participating theatres.

78% of those young people surveyed said that they were more likely to attend a theatre again after attending a free performance.

The kind of collaborative approach used by Ask a Curator and A Night Less Ordinary is becoming the normal way for UK arts organisations to operate, accelerated perhaps because of the recent financial recession.

Arts organisations are showing that by working together they can make their voice heard in a world overwhelmed by marketing messages.

6. Gamification

Another trend which seems to be taking off in UK museums is the gamification of experiences to reach out to audiences who perhaps don’t think that the arts are for them.

There has been a whole generation of young people who have been brought up playing computer games and this poses problems and opportunities for the arts.

A player of a computer game is the protagonist, placed at the centre of the story and this is increasingly the way in which young people prefer to learn. But this is quite different from the experience they get when they visit a museum or sit in a theatre.

Technology is, however, offering answers with mobile phone apps that turn museums into board games and offer both an experience which is perhaps more appealing to young people and also an educational tool to encourage this hard-to-reach group to learn about art.

TATE Trumps is one such example. This game is based on the popular children’s game Top Trumps and is played in TATE Modern using an iPhone.

Players are tasked with running around the gallery collecting the seven artworks which they believe will beat those collected by their friends and then reconvene to do battle.

I think this is an excellent example of a museum using an iPhone app as a marketing tool, extending a cultural experience to a group who may not think that the arts are for them.

Games seem to be an incredibly popular trend in the museum sector at the moment.


This is just a quick snapshot of how the arts in the UK are using technology to reach out to evolving audiences. Those who are innovating are thriving, whilst those who refuse to change are looking more and more out of touch.

10 tips for online museum shops

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

With funding cuts biting, many museums are developing or redeveloping online shops to compliment their onsite retail offer. How do you get the most out of e-commerce for the museum?

1. Don’t let your online shop seem detached
Too often online shops on museum websites feel separate from the rest of the website. Try and integrate the shop seamlessly with the same look and feel as the rest of the site.

2. Cross selling
Take the opportunity to promote your online shop throughout your website. John Stack, Head of TATE Online told me ‘One of the things that has been very successful for us is featuring the shop products around the site. We believe that most pieces of content on the site could be cross-selling some kind of related product (shop, membership, magazine subscription, donation, etc.) and this is what we’re working towards’.

3. A picture is worth 1000 words
High street stores know the importance of using beautiful product photography, but this lesson seems to have been lost on many museums. Taking the time to write proper product descriptions is equally important, and remember that these also help you to rank more highly on search engines.

Don’t forget social media
Most museums have been quick to integrate social media sharing tools into the events, exhibitions and collections sections of their websites, but potential to increase shop revenue by allowing website visitors to share the products that you sell online through social networks is often overlooked.

Call to action
‘Simple, obvious wording and buttons can make a big difference’ Hugh Wallace, Head of Digital at National Museums Scotland told me.

Don’t underestimate the need for good signposting to show visitors where to click to add something to a shopping basket or to make a purchase.

Test, test, and test again
Getting your shop design right cannot be done in isolation. You should test your shop with members of the public from the earliest design through to the finished product. This can be done by giving people simple tasks to perform, such as buying a product, is it as easy as you thought?

Off-the-shelf or bespoke
There are many off the shelf solutions for online shops. These can be cheaper than a bespoke design, but you should consider whether something built to your specification could bring in more money in the long run when picking the right solution for your museum.

Email marketing
Collect email addresses from your customers and keep them up-to-date on your latest products and offers with monthly emails. It is easy to track how many recipients are clicking through to the store and to measure which messages resonate the most with your customers.

Personalise content personalises the products it displays to each visitor based on the items which they have looked at before and this is something which museums are also starting to think about.

‘We’re looking at personalisation technologies that will tailor content and products to user’s interests, although we aren’t implementing this yet’. John Stack, Head of TATE Online told me.

Track, analyse and evolve
Designing your online shop doesn’t end when it launches. This is merely the start of the next phase of your work. Use a stats package like Google Analytics to track the progress of your customers through your online shop and tweak the design of any areas where a bottleneck of incomplete purchases is occurring.

Have you built an online shop for your institution? Please share your tips in the comments below.


This article was written by Jim Richardson, founder of MuseumNext and managing director of Sumo, an agency with a reputation for developing innovative digital marketing.

Jim regularly speaks at conferences and contributes to publications on social media and digital marketing.