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audience engagement
11
the cluster of ideas around ‘the audience’. LeaRning aBOut tHe PeOPLe’S BeHaViOuR inSide tHe audience
in every school concert, there are strong
envir onmental cues that the stage should be
the focus of attention (raised platform, seats
OLd neW
pointing in the same direction); a clear physical
demarcation between those performing on
think then do do then (sometimes) think
stage and the audience (what theatre folk call
Rational emotional
the ‘fourth wall’) to signal the difference in the
respective roles of performer and audience; calculating Shorthands/heuristics
and cultural practices which reinforce this de­
lineation by keeping the audience passive and
independent connected/interdependent
immobile (except for those who don’t know
any better and clap between movements). persuade them, ‘drive’ them. all that militar­ technologies is turning the clock back.
this same lens has served us marketers istic vocabulary seems rooted here – targets, the more we see each other, the more
well for several generations as it reflects the campaigns, bursts. We think that marketing likely we are to respond to what each other
mass media’s understanding of the traditional and advertising is about us doing things to the is doing, thinking or feeling. this is why the
relationship between broadcaster and viewer audience. their role is to receive and respond ancient greeks built their theatres in such
or listener, and publisher and reader. We see appropriately and promptly. a way that each audience member could
one party as active and exclusively responsible However compliant the audience might see, hear and feel the others too. given half
for the creation of content; the other passive seem to be, this is far from the natural state of a chance, what we do is copy those around
and respectful of the content provided for it. affairs. in her wonderful book, Dancing in the us and their behaviour, thoughts and feelings.
We often tacitly refer back to the great events Streets, cultural historian Barbara ehrenreich Perhaps partly, at least, because our genetic
of the golden era of broadcasting, when we describes how in the late middle ages, the inheritance is of a social creature, we do this
think about the idea of ‘audience’, like the religious and secular authorities of northern with alacrity but without being aware of it.
lunar landings and Live aid, with the population europe set about suppressing the noisy, But here’s the rub: the more we’re able to
gathering around their tV sets to watch emotional and participative traditions of relig­ follow each other, the less of a role there is for
in wonder the scenes beamed to them for ious and popular assemblies (the remnants of any authoritative source, like a brand, govern­
their betterment. which we see now only in carnival and football ment or expert; and that really changes the
many of the defaults in our thinking crowds). they set about training a compliant, role of audience.
remain along these lines. We advertisers still passive audience, ripe for isolation and One way of thinking about this is the
tend to assume that the content we create to heavyweight instruction. it is the latter that is ubiquity in the modern world of what is
market our brands is consumed as avidly as the artificial construction, not the former. known in tech circles as ‘the backchannel’;
the long­gone television blockbuster; that our and it’s the latter that seems to that is, the ability of audience members
brands lie at the centre of the audience’s be coming unravelled by the connective to communicate freely and openly with
lives; and that ours is the thing that they think tech no logies of the era – texting, emailing, each other, rather than being locked into a
about above all. searching, tweeting, Facebooking and so on. primary relationship with you, the marketer.
according to this model, advertising Or, as Professor clay Shirky, author of Here imagine you are giving a speech into a kind of
and marketing is something we do to people. Comes Everybody, points out, what the audience conference room. Behind you is a big screen
We might try to transmit messages to them, does as a result of adopting these emergent with your PowerPoint charts displaying the
..............................................................................................................................................................
wisdom you have to transmit to the poor
souls who sit in front of you.
“ You see, the more we see each other, the But imagine that alongside your beauti­
more likely we are to respond to what each
ful charts on the big screen there also starts
to appear a live stream of comments and
other is doing or thinking or feeling. Given
messages (from say, twitter) from audience
members present (and not present) discuss­
half a chance, what we do is copy those
ing with each other their reactions to what
you are saying and how you say it – linking it
around us and their behaviour, thoughts
clearly to other conversations and points of
view. this is the backchannel and, in the mod­
and feelings” ern world, one way or another, it is always on.
............................................................................................................................................................. members of the audience are always able to u
ADMAP FebruAry 2010
DE 0210_10-11 earls.indd 2 1/22/2010 14:23:07
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