Illustration: Gabrielle Wolf

Life at St Andrews is full of student events. With those events come publicity and advertising. Wanted or not, our mailboxes and Facebook pages receive invites to events on a weekly basis. As favorable as these strategies seem, how effective are they at actually selling tickets and increasing turnout?

Having been on a few committees at the student societies here, I have grown accustomed to the procedure of promoting events – sending out emails to members, inviting friends on Facebook, sharing events on class pages, putting up posters and updating Facebook profile pictures on the special occasion. The procedure is pretty standardised amongst societies and events. As unfortunate as it sounds, advertising is something that I both love and hate.

When advertising is done well, it attracts the audience and increases turnout. When it is done on a massive and unnecessary scale, it becomes infuriating. Having received numerous invites and seen lots of shares on Facebook, I can’t help but ponder if such advertising efforts are intended to be strategic or just plain old procedural. Every now and then, I get skeptical when I hear, “Guys, remember to share the event on Facebook, again and again.” When sharing does not yield more attendees, then perhaps simply sharing the event is not enough, or at least, not smart enough.

The most common misconception is that the more people an event advertisement is able to reach, the more people will come to the event. This is not always the case. Some events will appeal more to group A while leaving group B uninterested, and simply reaching out to group B will not help. Not identifying a target audience from the start to cater to their interests is a pitfall that many event organisers fail to avoid. An example can be seen in posters designed not specifically for any particular target audience, or advertisements being put up at the wrong place. In these cases, no matter how hard promoters work, their efforts are simply not going to attract the right people.

With that said, I have also seen really well-executed publicity that failed to attract many attendees. Ruling logistics factors such as inconvenient timing and venues aside, this raises the question regarding the power of publicity and whether we are overestimating it. Personally, I rarely try out events that are out of my range of interests. Even when I see interesting ones advertised on the screens at the library, I think to myself, “That’s a beautiful design and sounds like a fun event, but probably not my cup of tea.” On the other hand, for activities that I actively keep an eye on, I go out of my way to find them and would be the first one to sign up when they launch. This behavior is not uncommon at St Andrews.

Amongst the more popular events are balls, fashion shows and sports events. These events don’t need to wait long to attract people and sell tickets; the first day they are launched on Facebook, hundreds of people click “going”. Advertising is not nearly as stressful for the members who organise these events. Unfortunately, not all events are as equally successful, which leaves other organisers anxious amidst a pool of questions. Should an event be organised despite the fact that it might not interest a lot of people? How to tell if people will come? Would advertising help that significantly?

Perhaps instead of defying advertising, we can take a step back and think about what goals we are really hoping to achieve through advertising. Depending on what event organisers’ preferences are, they might be prioritising different goals. Events don’t always have to attract many attendees to be successful, and at times it might just be fun to experiment with new ideas. The more realistic organisers are from the beginning, the less they will be disappointed in the promoting process. The important thing to remember is that advertisement can only do so much, and that events will have to sell themselves. Having a target group in mind from the beginning will make the whole process much more efficient and easy.

Last but not least, more is not always better. Sometimes, excessive advertising and bombarding people can actually backfire and result in unintended consequences. It’d be nice to recognise the audience’s interest every now and then. Advertising is supposed to be appealing and innovative, so there’s no reason to keep following redundant procedures when they don’t produce the desired effects.

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