Kristina Johansen-Seznec is Head of Marketing at one of Scotland's most dynamic arts institutions, Dundee Contemporary Arts (@DCAdundee). Incorporating a two-screen cinema, two galleries, a print studio and a visual research centre, DCA has a famously wide-ranging and eclectic programme and is a world-class centre for the development and exhibition of contemporary art and culture. Kristina, over to you!
What was your route to your current position
at DCA? Did you arrive at it via an interest in film, in marketing or both?
When I was a teenager
I was obsessed with film. I grew up in a very small place where there wasn’t
really a proper cinema so my best friend Helen and I used to go to the local
video shop and rent any movies we could find, sometimes
watching five or more in a weekend. We had a voracious appetite and would watch
anything from the sublime (The Usual Suspects) to the terrible (She Fought
Alone). But strangely I never really considered film as a possible career. At
university I studied English and History of Art and quickly found marketing, PR
and events roles in the arts sector and I worked in several museums and galleries
before coming to DCA.
A packed out screen and the exterior of DCA
What key films and/or
cinematic experiences informed your appreciation of cinema?
I didn’t live near a “real” cinema when I was younger most of my film
experience was via video or later DVD. However I did visit cinemas whenever we
went on holiday. My favourite was Colosseum in Oslo where we went whilst
visiting family. It’s a beautiful cinema with a huge screen and this was where
I watched the re-mastered re-releases of the original Star Wars films and later
the Lord of the Rings trilogy with my brother Pete and my cousins Jorgen, and Andreas.
Please describe a typical day in your role,
and the types of tasks you undertake.
great thing about my job is that there isn’t really a typical day. DCA has two
cinema screens, a large contemporary art gallery, print studio and café bar and
I am responsible for the marketing of the whole building, not just the cinema.
What film events at your venue are the most
challenging to market and why?
other cinemas we find art house titles like Ben Rivers' Two Years at Sea or The
Turin Horse the most challenging to market. The best way to approach this is to
try and build a community around this type of cinema, targeting students and
building a list of interested contacts, as well as by cross-promoting these
titles with other activity we have on offer. This is something we already do
now, but once our new website is launched I would like to do more with this
strand of the programme.
The DCA gallery and café-bar
What’s the general marketing ethos at DCA?
How has it evolved in the last few years, and where do you see it going
marketing ethos behind DCA is to be as audience-focused as possible; we try not
to broadcast about events but to target our activity at the key audience groups
who we think will respond best to a title.
has a large and varied programme and we try and give attention to as much of
the activity as possible. For everything we try and identify key groups who
might be interested in a specific title, for example sending special stickered
versions of our Cinema Guide to local bike shops to advertise The Armstrong Lie
or linking up with the YSL beauty counter in our local department store to
promote Yves Saint Laurent. This year we are putting a lot of effort into revamping our
online and ticket offer, and over the last few years more and more of our
activity has taken place online. But this doesn’t mean that we will be cutting
back on print and physical marketing, rather that we will be able to be even
smarter and more targeted about what we do.
Please describe what methods you use to
market the film programme – e.g. print brochure, e-newsletter, website, social
media channels – and which you think are the most important for
short answer is we use them all! Like many cinemas our marketing efforts currently
revolve around the production of our Cinema Guide, which we print on a 6 weekly
cycle. We survey our audience every six months and we use the results of this
survey to determine what is working with our audience. Our last survey was
completed in January of this year and told us that 38% of our audience cited
the Guide as the reason they had selected to see that film on that day.
the Guide is under pressure for a number of reasons. It’s a lot of work to
produce, and is expensive to print and distribute. In addition, distributors
are increasingly reluctant to commit to a release date as far as 6 weeks in
advance. This leaves us in a difficult position; we know our audience likes and
trusts the Guide more than any other marketing activity but this won’t be the
case when we can no longer accurately promote the films within it.
the next 6 months we are going to review our Cinema Guide to assess whether it
is still sustainable, and potentially make significant changes if we think they
are the right choice for our audience. At the same time we are investing
significantly in redeveloping our website and ticketing system (the current
site is over 5 years old) so that any changes we do make can be backed up by a
strong digital presence.
Kermit checking out the DCA Cinema Guide (from DCA's Instagram)
What are the most exciting things about your
venue and what it has to offer?
The most exciting
thing about DCA is the atmosphere and the people. We offer a great selection of
films chosen with care specifically for our audience, in a vibrant and
welcoming building. It’s this personal and welcoming touch which makes DCA
special and an exciting place to work.
If you were advising a new venue on how to
market themselves, what key advice would you give?
out who your audience is and where they hang out (both in person and online)
Don’t be afraid to take risks and have fun with it!
And if you were giving advice for people
looking to get into a similar career, what key advice would you give?
is a really transferable skill and the job experience is worth far more than
qualifications. If you can get experience at a film organisation that’s great,
but if you can’t it is worth getting relevant experience at other types of
organisations (cultural, heritage, and in the business world). Also, never stop
learning. Try out everything yourself, be the first to be on the new hip social
network, don’t be frightened to get out there to meet people in your area, call
local businesses, make connections. The tools we use as marketers will
inevitably change over time but key skills like networking and creating new
partnerships will always be useful.
please can you describe any particular successes you’ve had in cinema marketing?
recent example I am particularly proud of is our social media strategy for The Grand
Budapest Hotel. Our Cinema Coordinator Simon came up with a Guess Who? game
using the photos of all the characters from the poster for our Film Quiz. We
took this idea and developed it into a quiz which could be run on social media.
We created a series of three visual clues on Instagram and shared them with our
audience. People were allowed to have as many guesses as they liked but only
correct guesses would be entered into a prize draw to win cinema tickets
posters and some macaroons coloured like those in the film. We had 20
individual entries on Facebook and 27 on Twitter.
One of the visual clues posted on DCA's Instagram for their Grand Budapest Hotel competition
This isn’t a record breaking
number by any means but what was exciting was the high level of engagement it
generated. In order to understand the clues people had to look at the poster,
watch the trailer and watch a special video about the characters on the film's
website. It also increased our number of likes and was blogged about by the
local news channel STV Dundee.
Thank you, Kristina!