​How digital advertising turned Sydney nightlife around

Marquee turned to AdRoll in tough times and never looked back

Going from zero to 99 per cent digital advertising spend in just a few short years is an excellent illustration of how the marketing and advertising climate has changed significantly in such a short period of time.

Back into 2014, Sydney nightclub located in the Star Sydney (Casino), Marquee, was still advertising on billboards and via flyer campaigns. Now, the club has completely switched to digital, and thanks to personalisation, retargeting and segmentation, is achieving a 6.3 times return on investment, among other benefits.

Marquee, part of the US-owned Tao group, which is in turn owned by the Madison Square Garden Group, came to Sydney in March 2012. Like any international brand coming into the Australian market, it made a very heavy marketing investment early on.

In 2013, director of marketing, Tim Waugh, joined the business. He told CMO, back in 2013, 100 per cent of his marketing budget then was invested in traditional marketing methods.

“We had a very strong street media focus, with bus shelters, scooters dragging around billboards, and flyer teams. The business was making solid revenue, but it wasn’t converting sufficiently on the bottom line,” Waugh said.

A year later, Marquee’s revenue had flattened, and tough questions were being asked by the powers that be.

“Working for a public company, there was a lot of expectation from Star Sydney (Casino) to grow the top line and bottom line. That was a real turning point for us, we had to go back to the drawing board with our promotional and advertising strategies, and our advertising budget was slashed to a third of what it once was. That was the entry into digital for us," he said. 

“Given we needed to make more from less, we started that journey into digital. We cut some traditional sales team members and employed some digital experts to see what we could do.

“It was nerve-wracking time... Digital was a bit of an unknown at the time, and I didn’t have much experience in it. But the right thing to do was invest in digital experts in our team, and we’ve never turned back since.”

By 2016, Waugh realised Marquee had solid coverage on social media and via Facebook ads, and the advertising strategy was working relatively effectively. But it had very little visibility over the rest of the Web. He knew how important it was for people on their mobile phones, and for Marquee to have that extended coverage.

So Waugh tasked the digital team to see what they could come up with, on a lean budget, with more bang for buck. They came back with a suggestion to use AdRoll in 2016.

“We were early adopters of digital technology, but we are also working for a public company so there was much red tape and admin to go through to have the expenditure approved. Putting those business cases together early on was daunting, as was spending many thousands of advertising dollars on digital,” Waugh told CMO.

“But it’s come a long way, because now we spend about 99 per cent of our budget on digital. Back then it was nothing."

Today, the promotional strategy is simple, with all advertising dollars directed into funnelling people to the group's website. Using the AdRoll retargeting technology, the minute someone lands on the website, the brand feeds more information about upcoming events. Waugh also noted the adtech company's prospecting technology, which finds like-minded groups, has made a huge difference finding a whole new audience in Sydney.

For a company facing big challenges even before the new lock-out laws came into effect in Sydney, to now be achieving significant return on investment from its digital advertising, is impressive.

“AdRoll had the right offering for us. The reputation the company had when we were researching tipped the scale, and we haven’t looked back," Waugh said. “Since implementation, we’ve seen a consistent ROI of about 6.3 times our ad spend, and about a 46 per cent increase in ticket sales over the last two years. We’ve got a great product, but our ability to couple that with pinpointing target groups, and getting that message in front of them at the right time, means we are seeing a massive uptick."

Waugh recognised Marquee isn't necessarily an impulse purchase. "We have big events, and customers are not instantly going to purchase - they are going to talk to friend and make plans first," he commented. "We can ensure we can keep targeting these interested parties with event information in a way we’ve never been able to do before."

With so much upheaval to Sydney's nightlife through lock-out laws, Waugh said the last six years have been very challenging and competitive, and there’s a lot of regulation to navigate.

“Marquee offers a very programming-led, music-heavy experience, and where we’re seeing the real benefit is having that time to ensure our ad spend done efficiently, with minimum fuss, and maximum return for budget," he said. 

“We have a new campaign called 'limitless' at the moment, about the limitless fun people can have in our nightclub. We have since found newer audience groups we haven’t seen before who want to plan a night out in Sydney, so that’s our focus moving forward.”

Another result of the adtech investment is Marquee’s marketing team is about half the size of what it was when Waugh started, and processes are streamlined.

“When you think back to the example of our original airport billboard, and how many people that would have been engaging – not many - at a time when they were not ready to make a decision, versus the technology now where we can pinpoint an engaged person who’s interest in our brand and keep hitting them up at the right time to get the best chance possible, there’s no comparison,” he said.

“You wouldn’t see me riding a scooter with a billboard on it around Sydney now, that’s for sure.” 

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu  

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