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Geffen Playhouse Achieves $9:1 ROI and Top-Performing Show with Cybba



The Geffen Playhouse has been a hub of the Los Angeles theater scene since its namesake, entertainment mogul and philanthropist David Geffen, made a record-breaking donation in 1995.

Today, the not-for-profit theatre company welcomes more than 130,000 patrons each year. The venue is recognized for its intimacy and for presenting a body of work that garners national recognition, including a mix of classic and contemporary plays as well provocative productions. 

An AudienceView client since 2010, the Geffen Playhouse also supports extensive education and community engagement programs that focus on involving underserved young people and the community at large in the arts.

The Problem

When Patrick Brown joined the organization as Director of Marketing in 2018, he quickly realized that their digital and creative strategies were not working nearly as well as they should or could be. 

In particular, Geffen’s digital ads were receiving an extremely low 0.02% to 0.06% click-through rate (CTR). Combined with the fact that online ticketing companies face one of the highest cart abandonment rates in e-commerce, with 81% of orders left uncompleted, Brown recognized that reviewing their digital strategy was imperative to success.

He made it an early goal in his tenure to dig into this challenge and shake things up. Brown recognized that he would need more than just an adtech or martech provider, but a true partner that could provide individual attention to ensure success for Geffen’s digital strategy.

The Solution

AudienceView introduced Brown and Geffen to Cybba. A pilot project with Cybba was a natural fit because of the company’s direct integration with the AudienceView platform and business model that focuses on being a strategic partner instead of just another digital technology provider.

Brown decided to focus his efforts on Lights Out: Nat “King” Cole with the goal of increasing click-through rates and improving the return on marketing investment by bringing new audiences to the Geffen Playhouse.

The strategy included a 10-week campaign targeting patrons at every point of the ticket-buying cycle to generate website visitors, keep visitors on the purchase path and re-engage website visitors when necessary.

To generate new qualified website visitors, Geffen and Cybba used display and paid social advertising. The key to success versus their previous attempts at digital display ads would be the use of demographic, geographic, lookalike and second-party targeting to develop a focused target audience.

Once new potential patrons were discovered, it was time to turn them into ticket-buyers. To improve the overall engagement rate, Geffen leveraged Cybba’s onsite engagement tool, which reminded people that tickets were going fast via an on-site pop up when they appeared to be leaving the page. This tactic often stops people in their tracks and makes them think twice about abandoning their cart.

If necessary, the email remarketing tool can re-build a patrons cart and incentivize them to complete their purchase with a simple click of a personalized email before tickets are sold out. Display retargeting on other web properties also reached patrons who had already been on the Geffen website.

This combination of tools allowed Geffen to target only patrons who had already been on their site and raised their hand by showing intent to purchase tickets.

The Results

This digital strategy led to one of the best-performing shows in Geffen Playhouse history and Brown’s team was able to beat click-through rate benchmarks across all four tactical areas:

Benchmark (CTR)Geffen's Result (CTR)
Paid Social1%3% (with a 9% CTR on Facebook video)
Online Engagement34%38% CTR
Email Remarketing19%32% CTR
Display Advertising0.13%0.18% CTR

Geffen Playhouse improved their 0.02% to 0.06% click-through rate on display ads to 0.18% by working with Cybba. The onsite pop-up was responsible for 40% of recovered ticket sales.

Geffen was able to achieve a $9:1 return on investment compared to a $3-5:1 industry benchmark. They were able to recover more than 600 abandoned sessions and introduced more than 2,000 new patrons to

“It was an incredibly successful way to start our partnership with Cybba,” said Brown. “We learned a lot because we tested a lot. We were able to target people all the way from when they first saw an ad through the purchasing process. It really resulted in a spectacular campaign.”

Furthermore, working with Cybba has allowed Brown to better understand the reasons for cart abandonment, including ease of website use (e.g. seating charts and purchase flow), ticket prices and/or fees. 

Brown and the Geffen team are looking forward to taking these learnings and applying them to a bigger campaign for their next season.

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