Where Do Audiences Come From?

In just 30 seconds – and without words – this AT&T commercial poignantly answers the question of how a son receives the gift of passion for football.

The answer is universal.  The commercial could have been set in an art museum, concert hall, theater, science center, art studio or many such places.

This is commonly understood.  When we were young, we were introduced to experiences that became a part of us.  Some left impressions.  Some created memories.  Some stirred sensations.  Some became familiar.  Some  touched emotions and affected intelligence that resonated over time.

I point this out because too many arts & cultural organization leaders still believe that it is the job of their marketing department to create audiences.  They don’t.  They can’t.

At best, the function of marketing gathers audiences – but it doesn’t create audiences.

Your best advertising, direct mail, discount incentives, public relations and outreach efforts are absolutely meaningless to someone without some prior emotional, physical or intellectual connection to what you are offering.

Which leaves open the profound question of whose responsibility is it really to create audiences?


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