SDS40: Michael Adams, Brisbane Festival Marketing and Communications Director
Simon Dell: So, welcome, Michael Adams, to the Simon Dell Show. Thank you for joining us today.
Michael Adams: Thank you for inviting me on. It’s exciting.
Simon Dell: Now, just for those people who aren’t in Brisbane, I think it’s probably worth you giving us the quick elevator pitch of exactly what is the Brisbane Festival.
Michael Adams: Sure. So, Brisbane Festival is an annual festival. It’s the largest event in Queensland of its kind, and actually, I think it’s the largest in Queensland. We have a mixture as many of the people listening to your podcast would probably be aware of other major arts festivals around Australia like Adelaide, and Perth, and Sydney, and Melbourne and so on.
We have a program very similar to their program. In addition to that, because of our unique history, we also have on our final night a very large fireworks display called Sunsuper Riverfire which also has a little bit of an aerial show from the Australian Defense Force. So, we’re a large cultural festival with an extra spectacle and a very large public community event attached to the end.
Simon Dell: Correct me if I’m wrong here, but it’s a government-funded organization, or does the funding come from all different places?
Michael Adams: Funding does come from different places. We’re an initiative of Brisbane City Council and the Queensland State Government. About 20 years ago, there were two different festivals in Brisbane. Sunsuper Riverfire was one of them in and of itself, and there’s another festival called the River Festival which was the arts festival. One was owned by state government, one was owned by council.
Those two things were joined together and then that was branded as Brisbane Festival. So yeah, we’re funded principally by those two shareholders, but we have a number of other smaller funders and a very large corporate sponsorship kind of revenue stream as well. We get about $3 million in cash and then I think another $6 million in contributions to the festival.
Simon Dell:Right. So, for those who don’t know, it’s obviously a big ongoing concern.
Michael Adams:A big event, yeah.
Simon Dell:It’s not a little weekend party or anything.
Michael Adams:No. We go for 22 days. We have about 70 productions. We have two of our own precincts which have multiple venues in them, and then we use 17 other venues around the city. So yeah, it is quite a big logistical event.
Simon Dell:We’ll come onto a bit more about that later on. What I kind of want to do, again, for those of you that aren’t in Australia and those of you who also aren’t in New Zealand, they may not identify the fact that your accent is not originally Australian, as most people will identify that mine is not originally Australian. You’re an Auckland boy. Were you born and bred Auckland?
Michael Adams:No. Actually, I grew up in the south island on a farm, and yeah, so — The arts weren’t actually part of my family life.
Simon Dell:I was going to say, is there a lot of arts on the farm?
Michael Adams:Well, we were pretty close to Christchurch and both of my parents are academics. They’d come from large farming families and wanted to have a farm themselves. So, we have the sheep, stud, and crop farm but yeah, we were close to the city, so I was able to go to a lot of things. I did a lot of musical and amateur dramatic kind of performances when I was young, so that’s how I kind of got onto this industry.
And then I started working at a professional theater that operates in Christchurch when I was 16. So, I had good access to good training and a professional outfit to work with.
Simon Dell:What’s one of your highlights from your teenage years in the arts? Because everybody who listens would have had some point of experience of being on stage in something they didn’t want to be in.
Michael Adams:I always wanted to be in the things I was in.
Simon Dell:Well, no, yeah. I was going to say a lot of people did want to be in those things but some people got dragged into nativity plays and stuff like that.
Michael Adams:Oh, yeah. No, I’ve never had to do those. I had to stay in.
Simon Dell:What was your highlight? What was something you look back on in those years and reminisce fondly about?
Michael Adams:I think even though I actually wasn’t on stage at the time, I was working behind the scenes on Angels in America in the very first production that was presented on New Zealand. So, a major Pulitzer Award winning fan, had a lot of famous New Zealand actors in it. We had a term in New Zealand for that, it’s called world famous in New Zealand. We think everybody must know who they are but in actual fate only New Zealanders do.
And that was a major production. It was kind of an eye-opener. I was 16. I don’t know if you know the storyline of that, but it’s called A Gay Fantasia on National Themes and it deals with a lot of American politics from the 70s and the 80s and around the AIDS epidemic, and the central kind of characters are Mormons who are living in New York. It’s an extraordinary play and an epic play. I’ve worked pretty closely on that for three months, so it was quite a transformative experience.
It was the first time I really kind of saw how powerful and amazing theatre could be. It was an absolute blockbuster in Christchurch when it played because it had been such a famous play. So, that was an incredible kind of eye-opening experience for me. And then a little bit…
Simon Dell:I’m guessing listening to you there that that was you kind of realizing, like bald moment coming on, that that was what you wanted to do moving forward?
Michael Adams: Yeah, it was, although I have to admit that I actually started doing medicine and then decided I really didn’t want to be a doctor. And I had this idea that it was going to be my backup career should I fail to be — work in the entertainment industry. And then I learned pretty quickly you have to commit if you want to work in entertainment, and medicine is really not the kind of career that you just do as a backup. It’s quite all-consuming and I fainted quite a lot. It was quite nice to get away from that.
Simon Dell:Well, you’re just no good with blood or that kind of thing?
Michael Adams:Actually, it’s more the discussion of it. I was being teased yesterday because one of the girls in my team had fallen over and had a big gash on their hand, so I was doing the first aid for her and everybody was like, “Michael, aren’t you going to faint?” There’s no problem with the sight of it, it’s when you’re talking about how your body’s leaky and there’s fluid moving between your circulatory system and your immune system and it’s like, oh yeah, the idea of leakiness and then suddenly I’d be lying on the floor.
Simon Dell:I have had exactly the same.
Michael Adams:My imagination is too good.
Simon Dell:I’m terrible.
Michael Adams:Yeah, active imagination.
Simon Dell:I’ve fainted at all sorts of things. It’s very embarrassing.
Michael Adams:It’s really embarrassing, and you can feel that happening and you go sort of fuzzy, and then you feel like you turn into rubber, and then suddenly you’re on the ground, and there’s nothing you can do about it, and everybody’s looking at you. Yeah.
Simon Dell:I think I fainted once having my blood pressure measured. That was…
Michael Adams:I don’t like having my blood pressure taken either. I actually… My doctor because I’ve got apparently slightly high blood pressure, and they sound very relaxed, by my doctor says I’ve got white coat syndrome. And just the idea of having a blood pressure test sets my blood pressure up.
Simon Dell:It’s very strange, very strange. I get the piss taken quite a lot out of that as well. You’ve spent a long time at Auckland Theatre Company. Was that… I mean, obviously, and you’ve progressed through a few roles there, all marketing roles. What kind of got you into the marketing side of things as opposed to the performance and the backstage side of things?
Michael Adams:Originally, when I trained, I trained as a director and dramaturg and I did about bit of producing. So, producing is very much the business side of the arts. And then when I graduated from university, there’s kind of a long story involved in it, although the creative industry’s paper that I’d taken, marketing was quite a big part of what we would do. I didn’t actually think that that’s what I’d end up doing, but we graduated from university and we wanted to mount our work and to do that, we needed to apply for funding.
And to apply for funding, you needed to have a track record to prove that you could pull off what it was that you said you were going to do. And so, it seemed like a bit of a catch-22. So, we, at the time, decided we had met the station manager of a student or MD radio station network in New Zealand, and they’ve been looking for a sales manager. A friend of mine and I pitched our services as sales people working entirely on commissions, so there’s no risk for the station, but the tradeoff was that we would also write and record the ads so that we’d have sort of a creative dimension to that.
And it turned out that we were very successful at selling adverts and we ended up selling not just the local station but the national station and then we added onto that other youth-oriented publications, and street gig guides and so on. And again, we were always just working for commissions. And I think in the process of doing that, because I was selling there, and then taking briefs, and trying to find out from local stores and local businesses what their marketing objectives were and how they were pitching themselves and positioning themselves.
I kind of got a really tangible sense of what marketing was on top of the theoretical stuff that we’ve done on the creative industry papers, and then… So, we started to run a lot of campaigns, particularly targeting the youth market through radio and print. And then somehow, I think I got offered a large musical coming to New Zealand to act as a publicist, and I hadn’t actually ever been a publicist before.
But by this stage, we were making a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year, so we were doing quite good plays. And we were getting coverage for those, and then a big musical came to New Zealand and they asked me if I wanted to publicize it, and I said yes because I had a problem turning anything down. When you’re a freelancer, you’re always kind of, “Oh, I need some money.”
Simon Dell:Yeah, just yes to everything because you’re going to earn money, yes.
Michael Adams:Exactly, yes to everything. So, we did this musical and that got an enormous amount of coverage. And then I got, we got, for the contract, working for an organization called Community and Public Health to publicize World Smokefree Day.
And so, and again, we don’t say no — we didn’t say no to anything, so we took that on board and to do the marketing and the communications work to promote that, that event in New Zealand, and that just led to more and more work because we were quite successful at that. We started working on Hepatitis C campaigns, all the while we were still producing theatre and selling adverts. I’d sort of would go to bed at about 1:00 in the morning and get up in 5:00 the following morning. It was sort of manic.
Simon Dell:And that probably wouldn’t have been good for your medical phobia as well.
Michael Adams:No, it was all pretty exhausting. That sort of… I guess one thing led to another, and we were touring a lot of work, getting a lot of coverage. People loved the creativity of our campaigns and then just through a lot of the health work that we were doing, I was learning how to lobby as well because there’s actually oddly a large amount of lobbying.
New Zealand passed a Smoke-free Environments Act in 2004 that I’d worked quite a lot on. And then the first year that that rolled out, we developed a new quit services app in the workplace using GP nurses. So, we developed a new product and a new service that we would take to factories and so on to roll out, to increase the quit rates because we wanted to leverage the change in the Smoke-free Environments Act to increase quit rates. So, yeah. That was my crash course on actually how marketing and communications worked in the real world. I’d been successful and then I got offered a senior role at Auckland Theatre Company when I was 27, and it’s all gone from there.
Simon Dell:You mentioned early on about the sales side of things. Did you find yourself as a natural salesperson when you were put in front of people, or was it the fact that you were selling something that you were so passionate about, or was it both?
Michael Adams:I wouldn’t have said that I’m a natural salesperson, but I think I came across as being quite genuine and authentic and I wouldn’t put forward a campaign that I didn’t think could work. But I think I was probably more passionate about the radio station that we worked for. It was really cool, and the station continues to have a really great relationship with its listeners. So, we were selling a product that we were — or a station and a channel that we knew did work and had a lot of — and people cared about, and people understood that advertising wasn’t a necessary kind of part of keeping that station going.
And a lot of people who bought our advertising would be listeners of the station anyway. But I think as much as anything, I was passionate about what we were doing and that kind of generated enthusiasm. We were coming up with great, creative ideas and great, creative concepts as much as selling adverts. We would be selling a creative idea, and a business would be really excited about the fact that over the course of a year, we’re going to roll out a murder serial based on a bookstore working through sections of the bookstore each week and talking about the various kind of titles and so on, and dovetailing with sales promotions of their bookstore.
So, if you’re selling a creative idea like that, it’s not so much, “Here’s x amount of spots on the radio station.” It’s, “Here’s an amazing, creative idea that people are really going to enjoy, seeing how the story unfolds over the course of a year, this is how much it’ll cost us to write it and air it for you.”
Simon Dell:Right, so you’re selling the idea rather than the actual time on the radio station.
Michael Adams:Yeah. I think the time on the station is probably a little bit boring, anyway, and you might be talking about demographics and listenership. We didn’t necessarily have a huge listenership being an independent radio station. But we had amazing ideas and the people… And people actually listened to and remembered our particular series, the murder mystery and the bookstore.
Simon Dell:Your time in Auckland Theatre Company traversed the Facebook launch, and the social media upheaval, and all those kind of things. So, you started before all that appeared, and then you were there through that time. Did that drastically change the way that you were communicating with people?
Michael Adams:It did. Auckland Theatre Company was one of the first companies in New Zealand to start selling tickets online. So, the company in and of itself is quite an innovative company and embrace new technology. When I started at Auckland Theatre Company, we had just created a new initiative using text messages at the time. So, embracing new technology had always been a major part of the company’s ethos.
The tricky thing for a subscription company of the kind of Auckland Theatre Company is that it does have an older core audience, that’s over 45. At the time when Facebook was kind of coming up, we didn’t have a huge following to begin with and our audience, a lot of people still want a hard copy of a brochure sent to them, and they’ll fill in the form and they’ll post it back to us.
So, we didn’t necessarily see it as a channel that was going to create a lot of ticket sale revenue for us. It was more we wanted to be able to be accessed, and to create conversations with people, and for people to feel that they could be close to us. And so, that was how we embraced a lot of the social media to begin with, was simply as a channel that people could start a conversation with us.
Simon Dell:How do you find it today with Brisbane Festival? I mean, obviously, no event is ever created without some sort of social media presence these days. I mean, what works well for you guys and what doesn’t work well?
Michael Adams: We have a big team here as well working in the digital realm as well. If we create an extraordinary piece of content that people will want to watch, and share, and engage with, that will go very, very well.
Simon Dell: Give me an idea of something like that. Is it something that you’re stumbling on or you’re deliberately creating it?
Michael Adams:No. We all created it quite deliberately. So, it might be the launch of, say, a new — or part of our music program, a contemporary music program. Brisbane, if you don’t know, has an enormous contemporary music scene, and in particular they’re really kind of hardcore rock, underground, indie scene here. And so, the program, because we want to be relevant to the people of Brisbane, we have a big contemporary music aspect to the program.
And so, when we’re launching the music program, we create video content just to launch there. And of course, we’ve got a lot of big names involved, and a lot of Brisbane bands. That starts to get people chatting about it, sharing it, inviting their friends to it, and we’re really adamant and encourage the artists that are working with us to engage with those campaigns as well.
So, there’s not just Brisbane Festival trying to connect with an audience via its Facebook channels, but all of the bands that we’ll be working with are also driving that piece of content, because those, the bands and the artists are generally the people who have the credibility with an audience and we’re just connecting those two people together at a time and place. So, to be successful for us, it’ll be a great piece of visual content that has good music, really, really good visuals of concerts and gigs so that people can get a sense of the experience that they’re going to have when they go to a gig is going to be like.
And we have the amplification of all the bands themselves. That’s really big for us. The most extraordinary and surprise thing for us in terms of really well-shared content is anything for us that is talking about how fantastic Brisbane is. There’s a great sense of Brisbane pride, and Brisbane Festival is a key driver of that. We are very keen to endorse and support the Brisbane pride kind of movement. So, it can be as simple as some beautiful images of the city where the festival is taking place.
So, we had a big light and laser spectacular taking place on the river. There are fountains and lasers and so on, and we’ll take amazing photos of that, but we’ll have extraordinary kind of cityscapes in the background, and the engagement with that kind of city pride imagery took us by surprise how many people would share, that like, that comment on it, and take it and repurpose it for their own end.
Simon Dell:What channel works best for you guys? I mean, if you had to take one away, what would you not be sorry to say see back of from a social media perspective?
Michael Adams:We’d probably drop Twitter, I guess. It’s the channel that gets us the least engagement. I kind of think of the channels of having different audiences and a different purpose for us. So, on Twitter, there’s a lot of journalists and there are a lot of media, so we might be leaking, or not leaking, but putting out news angles and bait for a journalist. Whereas through Instagram, which is really visual, we might be hitting out with that great kind of Brisbane pride stuff, or we might be going out with band stuff.
On Facebook, we might be running more competitions and longer-form content, which has different engagement and is directly connected to the event and so on. So, those different channels for us have different targets, different audiences, and so we try to tailor the messages accordingly. But I guess, if anything, we would drop Twitter because we can just pick up our phone and talk to a journalist.
Simon Dell:Outside of social media, what other channels work for you guys, or what gives you the best ROI or the best eyeballs in what you’re doing?
Michael Adams:Email lists which are pretty heavily segmented and targeted are really, really valuable to us.
Simon Dell:Give us an idea about how many you would have on an email and how you segment them. I think this is a major problem with a lot of people in marketing, and people in business in general, that they’ve just got a long list of emails and don’t really spend any time understanding who the people are, whether they should be in groups and things like that.
Michael Adams:Yeah, absolutely. So, we’ve got about 150,000 people actively on our email lists. We have an opening rate of around the mid-40s, generally.
Simon Dell:That’s awesome.
Michael Adams:It is awesome. So, the way that we would segment. There’s lots of different ways that we can segment. We can segment it by art form, so just people who go to theatre, people who go to popular music and so on. We might segment based on genre, so not only do you go to theatre but you like dramas, or horrors, or thrillers. Or if you like music, maybe you are actually interested in quartets, or orchestral music, or popular music, jazz, blues, whatever.
So, we can segment those ways. We can also segment by venue. So, we have, I think I mentioned before, a lot of different venues that we use, and people do tend to be, in the arts, quite loyal to a venue. It is quite a challenge actually to get people to explore new venues. It’s as hard to get someone to try a venue as it is a new type of art form.
So, we may actually then keep kind of chipping down saying, “Okay, we want theatre audiences, but not just theatre audiences. We want people who go to horrors, we want people who goes to horrors at the Queensland Performing Arts Center, or we want people who go to horrors at La Boite or Powerhouse.” So, we just keep cutting it down and cutting it down.
That is probably one of the biggest and easiest ways to segment and I guess that’s based on former purchasing behavior, if you’ve shown or exhibited an interest in an art form and a genre before, we’re going to assume that you had a great time at that and you might want to do that again.
There are other segmentation models that we use as well which are a little bit more sophisticated and require surveying to build. There’s an English company based in Manchester called Morris Hargreaves McIntyre who have developed a segmentation model called culture segments that we make great use of. And that looks at different, not only what art form somebody would like, but it looks at the kinds of things that will motivate somebody to go in a different segment, and when in a campaign those people are most likely to have their interest peaked.
Simon Dell:So, it’s highlighting people that would be likely to shift to a different venue or a different type of art form and that kind of thing?
Michael Adams:Yeah, it does do that. And this segmentation model also will kind of give you a pretty good indication that that certain segment just doesn’t like musicals, or a certain segment just don’t like theatre, so only put the musicals towards those.
Simon Dell:Just before you go, what was the name of that… Is it like a piece of software that you can subscribe to, or what type is it?
Michael Adams:Morris Hargreaves McIntyre is the name of the consultancy. Culture segments is the particular tool. They provide you with questions that you ask and bury into surveys. And then based on the response to those questions, you upload the data into a tool that tags records with the segment. It’s really cool.
We used it a lot at Auckland Theatre Company and then I introduced it when I started at Brisbane Festival, so a lot of the thinking I could just roll out here that I had cultivated in New Zealand. But I think some of the stuff, when you’re getting into arts marketing, and I don’t know how specific given you’ve probably got a general listenership.
Simon Dell: It’s useful to know how different sections…
Michael Adams:Industries work?
Simon Dell:Yeah, exactly. That’s why you’re here, my man.
Michael Adams:Oh, good. Okay. So, if we were to talk about what motivates somebody or have an artistic experience, you can group motivations into four types: people who go to, most obviously, for social reasons. So, they want to catch up with their friends or their family. They want to have a meal or drinks afterwards before and/or even during if it’s a gig. People will go for emotional reasons. They want to be moved by something. It will require a storyline and they’ll be swept away by the grand emotions of the work.
People will go for intellectual reasons. They want to be challenged to think in new ways. Maybe they know an art form really well, and for arguments sake there might be trained as musicians, and they’ll go for intellectual reasons because they want to kind of hear how an orchestra is going to be working with a piece of Schostakovich, and that’ll be different from how another orchestra does it and they want to… They know all about the harmonic structure of that work and they can get into it in an intellectual level.
And then finally, people who go for what are called spiritual reasons. That’s where we talk about — People would say for argument’s sake that a piece of music was transcendent for them, that they go because it’s soul food for them, it gives them a sense of purpose, and a sense of who they are, and what their place in the world is. So, those four key motivating factors, different art forms have different clusters of those. So, theatre tends to get people who go for social reasons and emotional reasons.
Classical music, orchestral music, and museums, and art galleries get a lot of people who go for intellectual and spiritual reasons. That’s how the cultural segments are kind of knowing which art forms are probably going to work with which segments, because they’re trying to, at a base level, understand what it is that motivates different types of people to go to different types of work.
And there’s also another… It’s sort of built into culture segments as well, but there’s another kind of tool called the audience building model. That tries to take into account the sense of perceived risk that people might have with an artwork, and also how frequently they attend and how frequently they have cultural experiences. So, if you can imagine, I’ll talk about theatre because it’s what I know best. So, a new book by an unknown author is perceived by people to be very risky, because it doesn’t have a track record, it might be bad, I’ve never heard of this person, they might be an awful writer.
And then you’ll kind of have graduations through to a work, say, like Cats or Le Mis, which is an established work with a track record where people kind of pretty much, when they hear that name, they know exactly what type of show they’re going to get. And so, that is perceived as being low risk. So, if you start to map somebody’s propensity for risk and to try things before it’s got a track record, then you’re starting to look at things over a diffusion of innovations.
So, people who are thrill seekers and early adopters, but who also tend to go through intellectual and emotional reasons, will be one part or one segment. And then if you get people who go to work, who are laggards, who only go to work once it’s got a really established track record and a lot of endorsements, and they could probably go in for more social reasons to be entertained, and maybe to be sort of transcended by a beautiful piece of music that makes all the hairs stand on end; for a spiritual kind of reason, that will be a different segment.
So, the cultural segmentation takes all of that stuff into account. So, once we start to know and can segment our audience by that as well, we can then start to pitch shows in different ways. So, we can use different words. We can use different images. We can focus on different editorial stories that might surround it. We can focus on different themes and target that specifically.
Again, as we segment our email database to go back to how we originally go on to this point, then we can send out quite specific information, so that we’re sending really relevant kind of messaging to people about the kinds of shows that they like, trying to resonate with the reasons that we suspect from all these surveys and so on what it is that they might actually be seeking from an artistic experience.
Simon Dell:And I’m guessing, giving you doing all of that work, that that’s what leads to the 40%+ open rate for your emails.
Michael Adams:Exactly. We’re not just bombarding people with an irrelevant offer or at a time when they’re not interested, so yeah, exactly.
Simon Dell:So, from a technical perspective then, what software do you guys use? This is where we get a bit nerdy. What software are you guys using in the background there? Is there a specific email program, CRMs, automated marketing programs, that kind of thing?
Michael Adams:Yeah. So, there’s sort of a big ecosystem that we use. If we start where we collect the data from, that’s a ticketing system, we use a system called Inter which, through a license provider called Qtix which is like Ticketmaster or whatever. So, that’s how we collect a lot of data to begin with. We then have APIs that draw that sales data into Microsoft Dynamics and that’s our CRM.
And then we also plug in survey results into that CRM. So, we have obviously got a unique identifier for a patron, so if that patron has answered a survey, then we can append segmentational data to that record. And also, because we know when you bought a ticket, we know what the show was, we know what the art form was, what the genre was. We’ve made an assessment of how risky we thought it was, so we’ve already started to build up a profile if you’re there.
Once it’s in dynamics, we’re just writing different queries to segment that lap in different ways, and then we export that data up into Clip Dimensions, and through Clip Dimensions, we would send an email.
Simon Dell:Right. It sounds fairly complicated.
Michael Adams:It’s not. We’ve got good people who’ve put that together. For us, it’s just clicks or buttons. I guess the more important thing for us is not what are behind those clicks or buttons, but what is important for us is that we understand the concepts, the marketing concepts that we’re working with. So, it’s been designed for us, but we’ve said — that’s because we want to be able to talk about art forms, and genres, and the audience builder model, and the cultural segmentation stuff.
Simon Dell:Yeah. I mean, I guess you’ve obviously had a history in marketing. You must get people with other businesses outside of the arts that ask you for advice and things like that. What are some of the things that you would… If you were sat in front of small businesses that weren’t in the same industry as you, what are some of the key things that you think they should be doing, or things that you see people getting wrong or getting right? What are those basic marketing lessons?
Michael Adams:I think the basic marketing lessons that you can learn from anybody who works in the arts, is our focus is on experience. And pretty much every business, every interaction you have is an experience that somebody is having of your brand. The Auckland Theatre Company, we worked a lot actually with people working in the area of tourism. The experiential side of that is much more obvious, but even retail, there’s an experience in and of itself. When you’re entering a store, you’re not just entering a space with products that have prices connected to them and then you transact.
You’re walking into an environment, and a human is having an experience of that space. They’re having an experience and every interaction that they have with people on the floor who are working, who are providing them a service. So, I think the way that we would… Everything that we’re doing is we’re thinking about what type of experience is somebody going to have when they come to our show, how they’re going to be moved, how they’re going to be transformed. And those are ideas that you can, everybody can use in a business where they are actively interacting with somebody, that they are creating an experiential world for somebody.
And if somebody has a bad experience, though having a good perception of your brand and of your business, if they have a great experience there, they walk out feeling good and changed somehow by their interaction with you, which is — and people generally leave the arts changed, hopefully for the better. That is only going to lead to growth in your business. So, if you were to work with anybody from the arts and learn from us, it would be to focus on the experience.
Simon Dell:The best brands that you see doing that out there outside the arts, who do you see doing that well?
Michael Adams:I think to choose a New Zealand business, Air New Zealand does it extraordinarily well.
Simon Dell:I knew you were going to say this. I had the nagging thought in the back of my head.
Michael Adams:It’s New Zealand’s most trusted brand. But it’s an extraordinary end to end experience. From the very first interactions you might have with that brand through the website, and then the app, and then checking in, everything has been designed to make it easy and pleasurable for you. So, you’re having a great experience, and then once — after you’ve checked in, and the lounges, and you’re starting to interact with the actual flight crew and staff on the plane, those people who have been trained to act almost like concierges and they take really good care of you.
And then of course, provided that the plane takes off at the right time and does land where you were hoping to get to, you’ve have a great experience of the flight itself. And then if your bags are there and then you leave and you followed up… So, end to end, you’ve been immersed in an experience with Air New Zealand that has transformed you and improved your regard and perception of who they are as a business. And therefore, you want to have that again, and you’re connected to the magic of travel and the romance of that.
Simon Dell:I’m not going to let you get away without picking an Australian brand as well.
Michael Adams:Oh my god, they don’t exist. No, they do.
Michael Adams:I’m sorry. I was only teasing. Actually, because I’ve only been here for a year. So, the on the ground brands that I’ve interacted with and had a lot of fun with, I’ve really enjoyed the Brisbane Lions, and I guess I’m getting back into a live experience and a live spectacle, but it’s an AFL team. They put a lot of effort into not simply the game but for a spectator in the stands of their games.
Again, I keep talking about the idea of being immersed, but that’s what entertainment is for me, that you get caught up in this spectacle, and you’re crowd watching, and that becomes this extraordinary, emotional experience that you have just kind of shouting and yelling, and I have absolutely no idea what is going on in that game. It’s a very confusing thing.
Simon Dell:I don’t think many people have any idea what’s going on in that game. They sort of bounce a rugby ball and…
Michael Adams:I don’t think Australians know what’s going on in that game.
Simon Dell:I think most of them lie. They say they do understand, but I’ve asked people, “Okay, explain the tackling rules to me” and most of them just kind of look at you blankly and they can’t really explain it. Anyway, being a Kiwi, there’s only one sport for you, really, so that’s…
Michael Adams:Well, did you know? Not to disparage rugby and the All Blacks at all, but actually, there are more people in New Zealand who sing choirs than play rugby.
Michael Adams:Yeah. We have a very big Polynesian population in New Zealand, and a lot of the Polynesian cultures has singing as a really key part of their cultural experience. And so, yeah, a lot of church choirs. But yeah, so that does skew the results, but I think it’s an interesting fact that more people do sing in choirs than play rugby.
Simon Dell:My last two questions for you, otherwise we’re going to be here all day: What are you up to next? Obviously, you’ve only been at the Brisbane, as you say, just over a year now. What’s the plan for next year? Is there anything that you can tell us about that’s maybe different to what you’ve done this year?
Michael Adams:To Brisbane Festival itself?
Michael Adams:Yes, sure. I think we’re changing a little bit of our brand focus again. One of our brand aims is to be seen to be Brisbane’s festival, not simply Brisbane Festival, and that’s where the ‘All Together Brisbane’ invitation to join in comes from. It’s like when you’re singing a song, you go “All together now”, that’s what, all together, Brisbane is about.
So, things that we kind of… Are we doing it differently? Are we simply building upon the idea of our public launch? I don’t know if you saw that this year but a lot of arts festivals tend to launch in a very exclusive way to people in the cultural sector and other key and important VIPs. We did provide opportunities for those, that sort of speaking presentation to occur.
But predominantly, the launch took place in the street. It was for the people of Brisbane to interact with, to get a sense of what the festival was going to be like. So, I think we’re going to be even bigger in that public launch and in terms of making ourselves the people of Brisbane, the festival for the people of Brisbane.
There are a few more big broad appeal, easy to access experiences that we’ve got on the cards in the program. There’s a big Brisbane anniversary taking place next year which happens to occur on the same day as Brisbane Festival opens, so we’re connecting with that as well. So, I think there’s going to be… We will be able to really solidify the notion of Brisbane Festival being Brisbane’s festival.
Simon Dell:And yourself in the next year. Obviously, you’ve only been here a year. Is it explore more of Queensland or explore more of Australia?
Michael Adams: It’s a very big country to explore so I don’t know how much, I would say a small percentage, but yeah..
Simon Dell:There’s some bits you can ignore though, so don’t feel you have to go everywhere.
Michael Adams:I don’t have to do every square inch.
Simon Dell:I’ve been here since 2003 and I’ve never been to Perth.
Michael Adams:It’s so interesting coming from New Zealand, because there seems to be a perception, a really high regard for New Zealand from Australians, but the perception they’re about 9 hours away. And we’re like, you do realize that Auckland, and Wellington, and Christchurch, and Queenstown, where you can go skiing, it’s closer than Perth.
Simon Dell:Absolutely. I think everybody knows that, I just think nobody wants to go to Perth as well.
Michael Adams:I’m really keen to go to Perth. They’ve got one of Australia’s biggest and best festivals, the Perth International Festival. For me, I’ve got a two-year contract and I was at Auckland Theatre Company for 13 years. And as you said, been through a lot of different roles and I don’t want to be at another organization for such a long time. So, the next thing I want to do personally is I’m looking to continue my travels north. I’m looking for opportunities in Canada and Europe.
So, yeah, that’s where I would like to go. And maybe, so I’ve done a big producing company, Auckland Theatre Company. I’ve done a big presenting and packaging company, Brisbane Festival. I’m really keen to work on one of the big touring companies, which Canada is really famous for. They do a lot of touring throughout Europe and the States, so being able to connect with all of those would be quite extraordinary.
Simon Dell:Sounds awesome. Now, if anybody wants to get a hold of you, where’s the best place to talk to you?
Michael Adams:I guess you’re welcome to email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simon Dell:Are you busy on any social media yourself?
Michael Adams:I’m not a huge… I’m a lurker. I’m on all the channels.
Simon Dell:That’s quite alright. So, everyone out there, if you can find Michael, you can connect with him.
Michael Adams:You can connect with me via LinkedIn, yeah, as well.
Simon Dell:That’s the biggest challenge, is finding him lurking out there.
Michael Adams: Lurking and finding out who you are first.
Simon Dell:Mate, thank you very much for joining us today. I know it’s a long way off, but good luck with next year’s festival and really appreciate you being on the show.
Michael Adams:You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.