Chicago Theater Fills Seats by Using Rich Media Messaging


Chicago Theater Fills Seats by Using Rich Media Messaging

By TMCnet Special Guest
  |  August 05, 2013

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater is a non-profit organization located in the heart of Navy Pier close to downtown Chicago. The professional theater company is known worldwide for its critically appraised Shakespeare productions that are performed 48 weeks of the year in more than six hundred annual performances.

This past fall, the theater needed help promoting its new Shakespeare musical, “Sunday in The Park with George”. The theater was faced with a major challenge due to the double-digit decrease in audience caused by the struggling state of the economy. It had less than $10,000 budgeted to promote the musical and fill empty seats.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Leo Burnett USA worked together to kick off the fall production beginning with a surprise live performance by actors from the musical at the Art Institute of Chicago. What was surprising about the performance? The actors performed “Sunday”, a signature song from the musical, in front of a life-sized replica of the famous masterpiece, “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by George Seurat, but this replica had key iconic figures removed mysteriously from the original work of art, such as the pipe-smoking fisherman and the parasol-toting Madame. The goal of the performance was to show how characters from the famous masterpiece have left the painting to be a part of the upcoming production and to convince art lovers at the museum to find the missing characters by attending the musical.

After the surprise performance, the audience was encouraged to join a mobile messaging campaign to discover more about the secret of the missing characters. By texting SUNDAY (News - Alert) to short code 40679, art lovers and theater enthusiasts across Chicago were able to opt in and receive more information about the musical. The performance at the Art Institute of Chicago was captured on video and integrated into a marketing campaign using mobile, social media, PR campaign, and the auctioning of the faux painting for charity, which all culminated into multiple campaign impressions with the audience to remind them of the production.

Using Iris Mobile’s image-based mobile messaging technology, Rich Media Messaging, opted-in audience members received a video explaining how the missing characters in the painting have come to life in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s new musical and encouraged them to buy tickets to see the performance. Opted-in audience members were also entered in a contest for a chance to win free tickets to a Chicago Shakespeare Theater production, Chicago cultural weekend, or tickets to Paris to experience a Sunday on La Grande Jatte in person. The use of Rich Media Messaging enabled users to receive exclusive rich video content, which they could easily share on Twitter (News - Alert) and Facebook, further amplifying the success of this campaign by reaching out to new customers on personal social networks. The RMM platform automatically detected and optimized messaging content individually for all different mobile devices so opted-in individuals were able to view content clearly on their screens, resulting in very high engagement, and all at standard messaging rates.  

Results show that 21.7 percent of the customers who participated in the campaign had feature phones while 78.3 percent had smartphones. Over 14 percent of opted-in users shared the rich content they received on their Facebook (News - Alert). Additionally, over 17 percent of opted-in users agreed to receive future updates from Chicago Shakespeare Theater over messaging. This creative use of technology resulted in a unique interactive mystery for the audience and helped Chicago Shakespeare Theater deliver tremendous results using mobile messaging.

According to Sean Brennan, marketing assistant at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, “Not only did Iris Mobile’s marketing solution help generate positive buzz for our production, but it also provided an innovative way for us to engage with theater enthusiasts in Chicago.”            

This multi-faceted campaign produced excitement for the upcoming production by generating more than 8 million impressions in just 24 hours; breaking records with the highest number of first-time guests in the history of the theater; and extending the musical for an extra week due to popular demand for tickets.

Leo Burnett and Iris Mobile received high recognition at the Brand Activation Association’s 2013 REGGIE Awards by winning the Super REGGIE Award, which distinguished the campaign as best-in-class compared to all other gold winners that night. They also won top awards in the Creativity & Innovation, Experiential Marketing, Local/Regional Campaigns and Small Budget categories.

Cezar Kolodziej is the president, CEO and co-Founder of Iris Mobile (

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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