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Insight Thoughts on arts marketing from Sumo Digital issue—Winter 2010 -11

Thoughts on arts marketing from Sumo 

The Digital Issue Contents

Seeing the bigger picture....................... 2 Upwardly mobile.................................. 7 #GoingGlobal...................................... 9 What next?..........................................11 Further Insight....................................13

Collaboration, crowd-sourcing, social media and online dialogue are key themes in museum marketing teaching now. But how do you implement them? In this issue of Insight we look at two successful case studies to give you some useful guidance. We also give our top tips for museum websites, helping you to achieve an active, on-the-go museum experience. Finally we invite you to join us at the upcoming MuseumNext conference, expanding on these themes in much greater depth, with some fantastic speakers, where we’re hoping to set in motion a Manifesto for us all to follow.


Winter 2010-11

T. 01912619894 Sumo F. 01912612010 71 Westgate Road Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1SG


Scott Billings

Seeing the bigger picture Scott Billings looks at an innovative new website which is asking the public about their favourite paintings.


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01(PREVIOUS PAGE)/02 Photography Photography placed the audience at the centre of the campaign, juxtaposing the paintings and everyday situations.

The interpretation of collections is a vital element in the public engagement work of most contemporary museums and galleries. Curators, learning departments and exhibition designers all influence how objects are presented and interpreted, often by telling stories, making cross-cultural connections and by providing context and history. Visitors have come to expect this kind of expert contextualisation from museums and, perhaps to a slightly lesser extent, from art galleries too.


But like almost every area of communication in the 21st century, museum interpretation is becoming a two-way exchange. The rise of social media and its many channels for multiple, personal voices, means that more and more people expect to share their own stories and contexts and offer their own interpretations. This idea is rippling through the arts and cultural heritage world, demonstrated by last year’s Arts Marketing Association conference which focused specifically on shifts from marketing to people towards ways of marketing with people. This idea of visitor input underpins a project by the Yorkshire Regional Museums Hub to promote the county’s oil painting collections. The campaign, designed by Sumo and called Yorkshire’s Favourite Paintings, hopes to get people talking about their own favourite pictures from the collections, sharing their thoughts online and commenting on the views of others. ‘A lot of people aren’t aware of the breadth and depth of the region’s painting collections. We often talk about the venues themselves, but the paintings are really much more than the sum of their parts,’ explains Eric Hildrew, head of marketing and communications for Museums Sheffield, the Hub’s lead partner. With Renaissance in the Regions funding to digitise a number of paintings, the Yorkshire Hub was looking for a way to cross-promote its venues, which include large art galleries in Leeds, York, Sheffield and Hull, as well as many smaller museums. According to Hildrew, the initial idea had been to run a ‘competition’ to find Yorkshire’s overall favourite painting, but in the end a more open-ended approach emerged. ‘Sumo softened the competition, arguing that finding just one favourite ran counter to the kernel of the idea, which is that everybody has a different favourite and their own reasons for that particular choice,’ he says. Instead, the campaign will be built around people’s stories and views on their favourite pictures—their own interpretations. Using focus groups comprised of visitors and non-visitors, as well as the venues’ curators, a list of 100 oil paintings was chosen for the campaign. These range from 17th-19th century works by painters such as Thomas Gainsborough and John Singer Sargent, through to more modern and abstract work by artists such as Bridget Riley, Paula Rego and Francis Bacon.


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03/04/05 The campaign website allows the audience to view paintings, select their favourites, and tell their story by uploading video, audio or by simply leaving written comments.

A specially built site: yorkshiresfavourites. org allows people to search for paintings by artist, period and the venue at which they are held. Users can choose their favourites and leave an explanation of why a particular picture appeals to them. These stories are then displayed to other visitors alongside the paintings online. To encourage dialogue, social media sharing is also built into the site, allowing one-click posting of the artworks to sites such as Facebook and Twitter.


The idea, according to Hildrew, is that everyone has some view about paintings. ‘It doesn’t have to be based on art history necessarily; a lot of people view art on the basis of whether they would like it in their living room, which is equally valid. We are looking for people’s responses to generate a sense of discussion, perhaps around the notions of what is “good” or how we choose a favourite,’ he says. ‘To aid this, we wanted a website that would show the paintings as well as possible, not just as a load of thumbnails. The site has a strong layout and a nice feel, where users scroll horizontally through the pictures, which is closer to a gallery experience.’

As with any campaign to promote museums, it is important to pitch the material according to the target audience. Hard-to-reach groups are often targeted in order to raise their awareness of museums and galleries, but in this case the Yorkshire Hub is looking to engage a broader audience of people who are probably already ‘museum-aware’ but who seldom visit. ‘There’s a mid-ground of people who are interested, fairly museum or art literate and without any real barriers to engagement, but who still don’t visit very often,’ says Hildrew. ‘One of the reasons we liked the Sumo campaign was because it gave us a valuable external view on what we’re doing.




06 Print campaign

07/08 Social sharing

09 Video stories

The print campaign uses striking photography and simple copy to drive visitors to the website.

Visitors to the website can share their favourite painting and story through various social networking sites, including Facebook. The campaign is also given extra depth by ongoing Twitter updates.

Users can submit video stories to the campaign website, helping add a real sense of personal ownership.

‘Our marketing always produces nice materials, but they are usually in the same gallery style. A really strong aspect of Sumo’s work is its “pop” feel which, although it may go slightly against the grain of what regular visitors expect, shows that it is doing exactly what we need to reach different people.’ Yorkshire’s Favourite Paintings is supported by an outdoor media campaign as well as in-gallery materials, such as thematic trails and voting booths beside featured paintings. And a competition element remains: the most enthusiastic and popular entries on the website will be shortlisted and a winner chosen to receive a high-quality print of their favourite painting.

But more importantly, the campaign highlights how digital channels—in this case a special site and the use of social media—give museums the opportunity to ‘host’ ongoing public discussions of their collections. In this way, Yorkshire’s Favourite Paintings is both a promotional campaign and a platform for visitors’ interpretations of art.


Visit Yorkshire’s Favourite Paintings at




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Richard Bacon

Upwardly mobile If you don’t already have a mobile website for your venue, it’s likely to be something you are considering. This article details our top pieces of advice in approaching a new mobile website.


Ofcom’s report in May 2010 put smartphone usage in the UK at 12.8 million, which is 64 per cent of all phones sold. The UK saw the highest growth in smartphone take-up last year with a 70 percent rise in subscriber numbers so there is definitely an audience for a mobile version of your website. We would recommend that at least your essential visitor information is put on a mobile version so that users can find out what’s on and where you are without trouble navigating. But it’s not just on-the-go; 29% of users in the Ofcom research use their phones to browse the internet at home. The research also showed that the UK is leading the way in the use of devices other than a desktop PC (iPads, phones, games consoles etc.) to browse the internet.


Target Smartphones     While WAP is still used, the explosion of smartphones means more and more handsets are capable of browsing feature rich-websites and this will only get better with time: target these devices.


Core functionality     Certain functionality lends itself well to mobile sites, whereas others will require ‘shoehorning’. Concentrate on areas which people are most likely to view on-the-go, which are most important, which will lend themselves to web without much development work, and which are most popular. Content types which work well on mobile browsers •  Listings •  News stories •  Locations • Text •  Images •  RSS feeds • Video •  Forums (browsing) Content types/functions which don’t translate well: •  Small details •  Small or multiple links •  Searching and research •  Shopping •  Sign-ups •  Forums (taking part) •  Editing


Design     Obviously the most stark difference when designing for mobile browsers is that the screen size is smaller and a different aspect. Space therefore needs to be used more efficiently and graphics have to work differently. Certain tools such as reveals, jump links, click-to-enlarge images and ‘back to top’ links make browsing and navigating much easier. Good examples offers a streamlined user experience that allows the visitor to reach information they are interested in (next step) but also provides a link to the full site so the visitor can gain access to full site functionality. pulls in all the most popular content into its trimmed-down homepage to quickly find what you’re looking for as well as providing a search box at the top of the page. makes good use of bulleted lists and hide/reveal content to fit on a mobile screen without too much scrolling. uses a different navigational structure from their main website and makes use of liquid layouts (the layout changing as you change your screen from portrait to landscape).


Content is king     With limited real estate, content is even more important on a mobile device than a desktop. Give the the user the information they require at the top of the page. Navigation, images, detail, further links etc. should go below this.


Mobile device recognition     You can automatically redirect mobile web visitors to your mobile site by including a small piece of code on your pages. Always provide a link to your main site to allow users to browse the main site if they desire.


File sizes     Mobile web speeds are not (yet!) up to desktop speeds so smaller file sizes are sometimes as important as in the dial-up modem days. Also, a mobile visitor (if not connected to a wireless network) will be subject to a mobile data plan from their provider, so they’ll thank you for minimal overhead; throwing 100s of kb of Javascript at a site simply to fade some text is a waste. Images should be optimised: drop the quality of your images as far as you can without noticeable degradation on mobile screens by testing them on different devices.


Emulate native behaviour     jQtouch is a jQuery plugin that emulates iPhone/iPod touch functionality. Using this plug-in enables sites to be developed that look and feel like native iPhone/iPod touch applications so Apple users (if not Android users) visiting your mobile site don’t have to learn a new way of interacting with the site.


Limit data entry     As suggested in point 2, it’s best to minimise any kind of data entry by the user; this can be difficult, even on handsets with a physical keyboard. Avoid forcing visitors to log in or click multiple times before showing them the content they require (a splash home screen for example). Excessive data entry can frustrate users and may force them away from your site.


Flash (the biggie)     While smartphones have come a long way and are able to handle most sites, there is still one big sticking point: Flash. This is simply not supported on the vast majority of handsets (Android 2.2 supports it, but it’s not perfect). If your site (main or mobile) is 100% Flash then the average smartphone user isn’t going to see anything. You should provide an XHTML version for mobile visitors. If the Flash sections include important content, such as video, you can use a Javascript media player instead or link to a version of the video on YouTube’s mobile site which runs in Javascript. If the Flash isn’t essential, animations or details for example, then just omit it. If you want to know which parts of your site are in Flash, right click on an animation or video and the pop-up will mention Flash.


Don’t go it alone     There is unlikely to be the need to start from scratch on your mobile website. If there are is another similar organisation who has a mobile website, find out who did it and see if they (or their agency) can re-skin it for you. Or try an off-the-shelf system like which is a really efficient way of getting your essential information online in a mobile format.

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Scott Billings

#GoingGlobal On the same day that 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. The one-day event, called Ask a Curator, was the brainchild of Sumo’s Jim Richardson, frustrated that social media is usually used by Museums to push out ‘bland marketing messages’, if they use them at all. Richardson wanted to harness Twitter’s networking power to drum up some direct engagement with curators across the globe. The idea was that a curious public would be able to question the keepers of cultural heritage about the objects in their care and what it is they do with them. ‘With Ask a Curator I wanted to do something which asked more of both the public and museums, something that could create dialogue and real engagement. I hoped the project could give the public unprecedented access to the passionate and enthusiastic individuals who work in museums and galleries and also break down barriers within these institutions, where all too often social media is still the remit of the marketing department,’ says Richardson. The initiative comes at a time when many museums are just beginning to consider how online platforms and social media might dovetail with their on-site activities. Some institutions, such as the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, have blazed a trail with their online services and an open attitude to dialogue with the public. But for some organisations, taking part in Ask a Curator was a foray into largely uncharted territory. According to Conxa Rodà, project coordinator at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, the event was the first time curators there had used Twitter. ‘[The event gave] museum professionals a real proof of the reach and influence of social media and it can awake an interest in what Twitter is all about,’ she says. 9

So was Ask a Curator a success? In many ways, yes. Despite being promoted solely through Twitter, the idea eventually garnered participation from over 340 institutions, each offering a curator to take part in a question and answer session at some point during the day. What’s more, together these museums and galleries span the globe and cover a huge breadth of subject matter and collection material—from the Museum of East Anglian Life in the UK to the Museum of History of Medicine in Brazil. Questions ranged from the general— ‘Have you ever had a piece that you wanted to exhibit but was too large to get into the museum?’—to the specific—‘What is your vision for creating a participatory interactive experience with visitors using mobile guide technology?’—to the analytical and academic—‘Is a visual art exhibition a collaborative project between artist and curator? Is there a dominant player?’ ‘For us, Ask a Curator was the start of an ongoing conversation,’ says Wenke Mast, events and website assistant at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp. ‘Our communications department will now screen Twitter every day and pass relevant questions to our curators. We will keep on answering questions.’ Perhaps this is a first step towards breaking down the ‘barriers’ between curators and marketing departments that Richardson observes. And if volume of traffic is a measure of success, the event was barnstorming. The rapid rise of #askacurator—the ‘hashtag’ linking Twitter messages to the subject—led a range of media, including the BBC, to report on the activity. Although these reports largely focused on the social media phenomenon of a trending hashtag, they also discussed the event’s principal idea of connecting museum curators and the public all over the world. The day’s activities also increased Twitter followers for the organisations which took part. ‘We received 403 extra followers from Tuesday 30 August,’ says Maryam Asghari, online and digital marketing manager at the Barbican. ‘The average is 443 extra followers per week, so to get this number in three days is good.’ In short, Ask a Curator generated lots of activity around a worthwhile objective, namely giving the global public ‘one-to-

one’ access to curators of cultural heritage collections, many of which are publicly held. This huge response reveals genuine interest in the sector’s work, says Museums Sheffield marketing officer for campaigns and digital Dominic Russell-Price. ‘When the calls for scrapping arts funding get ever louder it was heartening to know that the public want to engage and know more about how we work, particularly with questions being about collections, not just exhibitions.’ But there are also limitations to the Twitter platform and in many ways Ask a Curator was beset by problems of its own success. The popularity of the event and the fast trending of #askacurator swiftly led the hashtag to be hijacked by spam messages, polluting the stream of genuine messages with rubbish. Because #askacurator is the only identifier of relevant messages it becomes difficult to track associated questions and answers as they stream in from multiple sources. Additionally, many responses were made directly to questioners rather than ‘tweeted’ publicly, further obscuring the exchange. Another inherent limitation is Twitter’s short-form message format of no more than 140 characters. Does this preclude the meaningful and detailed conversation needed to discuss complex curatorial work? Is Twitter actually better suited to providing basic visitor information? ‘I think it all lies in the expectations of the Twitter audience,’ says Richardson. ‘Everyone enters Twitter knowing that the messages are short and I think people expect short answers and a certain amount of chaos. Personally, I don’t equate depth of engagement with the length of the answer; the tone and speed of response are for me just as important as they can show that an institution is open and keen to engage with the public.’ Certainly, whichever online platform is used for engagement, it is not so much the mechanics that are important, but the content and intention. In this regard, Ask a Curator raised its own valid question: Is there an appetite for this kind of dialogue, from both sides of the exchange, and how can it can enrich the work, understanding and enjoyment of museums and galleries everywhere?

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Jim Richardson

What next? This is an ‘Incomplete Manifesto for the MuseumNext’ as presented by Sumo’s Jim Richardson at the Join to Create conference in Amsterdam on 19 January 2011. This brings together thoughts on how museums and galleries can use technology to create more engaging experiences for visitors.

1 2

We will evolve Technology has caused a cultural shift; the way that people act is changing. Museums must evolve to meet these changing audience expectations. We will shift from the didactic to dialogue Museums should be platforms for exchange, accepting that everyone can have something valid to contribute.

3 4 5


We will be open We should use technology to take people behind-the-scenes and to give them direct access to our staff and expertise.

We will empower our audiences to make us better We will use technology to create new opportunities for our audiences to volunteer their time to help make our museums better. We will build personalised experiences Museums need to look beyond delivering the same experience to all their visitors and use technology to give personalised experiences.

6 7

We will be social Technology should be used by museums to bring people together and extend the reach of our community projects.

We will put the audience into the story We should give our audiences the opportunity to be the protagonist in the museum experience or story, acknowledging that many people prefer this way of learning.

8 9 10

We will be platforms for creativity A museum should not only be a place to see other people’s creativity, it should be a platform to encourage everyone to be creative. We will exist beyond the physical museum Technology enables a museum to engage with people outside of its physical location, increasing geographic reach and the impact which it can have. ? This tenth point has deliberately been left blank. This is your invitation to contribute your own thoughts on ‘where next?’ Contribute your tenth point at incomplete-manifesto

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Further Insight Views you can use from the Sumo team.

things to improve your homepage   Prioritise the navigation   It’s tempting to try and put too many links in your top level navigation—just to be sure that users will find everything you’re offering. However, this can have the opposite effect if they feel bombarded by the options or confused by the structure.      Often the most effective navigation is cut down to fewer than 12 options, up to half of which are emphasised on the page (larger, higher, bolder or whatever) and the rest are more subtle, but clearly still navigation.    If you are struggling to prioritise, because all the information is valid and therefore seems important, it can be really helpful to draw up some typical user journeys through the site and see where people start—usually you only need these few starting points in your top level navigation (what’s on, getting here, groups etc.) and users will find everything else by drilling down or searching.

APIs in a nutshell There are two major benefits for using APIs: trust and stability. Users do trust sites they know well; using Twitter or Facebook’s single sign-on is more likely to see people connecting with your website. They already have an established presence on a social networking site, so providing a means of authentication for interacting with your site lowers the entry More and more communities are opening point. From a developer’s point of view, APIs are up their APIs to enable this information very well tested on a wide number of systems. exchange. The most obvious example is that Rather than ‘rolling your own’ interfaces, APIs of the Facebook ‘Like’ button that can be are well documented and stable, making them embedded on any web page. When clicked, quicker and easier to deploy. the user shares that page to their newsfeed,    Opening up your own data by providing enabling their friends to find that content. an API will enable people to create their own It also serves as a ‘recommendation’ making applications that make use of your content, it more likely to drive more traffic to you. mix it up, and share it around the web.    APIs can be as simple or comprehensive as    The internet is becoming a more you like. From adding a widget to your site that interconnected, global system not just in displays your latest Twitter updates or Flickr connectivity, but with user interaction. Making photos, through to letting a user upload a photo your site more accessible and friendly and/or through your site into your flickr group then tying it in with existing, trusted systems are prompting to share it on their Facebook page. fantastic ways for users to find, interact with    The Google Maps API is becoming almost and share your content—and using existing ubiquitous—from displaying your location to APIs can provide the backbone. making a ‘mash up’ of content and overlaying it on a map. You can even create Google calendars and use them to embed event schedules directly within your website.    These tools are free, and work on all modern browsers.

An Application Programming Interface (API) sounds scary but in reality provides a friendly way for one or more systems to interact with each other and exchange information.


  Banners and slideshows  Banners can be a really useful marketing tool; enabling you to push a particular message, or attracting users to content in the secondary or tertiary layers of the website.    Any good CMS should have a banner system which allows you to upload a number of messages in a slideshow, each linking to a relevant page. Large, bespoke banner graphics will also add colour and impact to your homepage and will change its look and feel each time they ‘slide’.   Type of quick links  As well has your linear navigation, it can be really helpful to users to offer them a number of quick links. There are numerous ways of doing this: straightforward ‘Helpful links’; by audience—’Who are you?’, highlights; latest; messages you want to push or users don’t seem to know about—’Have you seen…’, etc.    These can be visual (as per point ), textual or a mixture of both depending on their tone and their relative importance on your homepage.   Automated refreshing content  Now we’re all used to social networking sites which refresh every few minutes (or even seconds), users like to see new and fresh content each time they return to your site.    There are lots of automated ways to do this such as: a selection of highlights, one or two of which are shown each time a user loads the page; a slideshow—of promotional messages or suggested links within the site; feeds from your news, events, social networking pages, blog, image gallery, forum etc.; feeds from elsewhere—useful information, related information, images etc. For further information contact Jemma Bowman, Digital Account Manager.

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Insight Digital Issue  

Collaboration, crowd-sourcing, social media and online dialogue are key themes in museum marketing teaching. But how do you implement them?

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