Can the Brass Ring of True 1:1 Marketing Be Solved in the Concert Arena?

One of the challenges in marketing, from the first ad posted in the caves centuries ago, is attaining confidence that your message is landing in front of the right eyeballs.

Betsy McHugh believes she has a solution, at least in the live event arena.

I spoke with her yesterday, as she was preparing for her product’s coming out party at the Country Music Awards.

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-9-30-08-pmThe tag line she uses is “Your audience illuminated.” As she explained to me, “You don’t know who is in the audience; there is an average of 2.7 tickets per transaction, and with the resale / secondary market there is no certain way the performer knows who is in his audience.”

McHugh, the CEO and Co-Founcer of Hurdl, asserts that her solution provides an interactive experience with everyone in the audience. “We offer a pixel of light and a pixel for remarketing. We give fans a better experience, they want more for their money.”

The way it works is that each member of the audience is given their Pixl upon entry to the venue. It is a wearable device, with 16 million color options and a six-hour battery. Each attendee is instructed to text the unique Pixl serial code to a designated phone number. Each unit is thereby individually addressable, allowing for immediacy in starting a text conversation to build a user profile before the show starts: what is your birthday, what is your pronoun, are you a single lady, etc. There is no app needed to implement the system.

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-9-27-59-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-02-at-9-28-32-pmMcHugh’s client is the artist. The pitch is that the artist is enabled to have 1:1 relationship with the fan in the audience. Clients can determine at each concert who will be lit up. “Guys, girls, veterans, and it is all scalable. The artist’s lighting director lights up the Pixls during the show,” explains McHugh.

The artist is given a post-show follow up opportunity; within 48 hours the artist can send one more message. It might be a merch opportunity. “No need any longer for the fan to wait to buy at the merch table, but we wait for 30 minutes after show to not mess with merch sales at the venue,” confirms McHugh.

The business model is quite intriguing. The $3.75 cost of each Pixl unit is handled by the client / artist, but is invisible to the fan as the cost is absorbed in the ticket price or underwritten by a sponsor. That is a landed cost, there is a small refundable rental system that hooks into the lighting system. Hence there is no additional equipment for the artist to lug on tour.

As with many nascent business models, data analytics is a core selling point. Hurdl scrubs and collates the data from each show, and then delivers a file to the artist for all attendees at the show. Artists can subscribe to Hurdl to provide input on likelihood of future fan purchases based on algorithmic analysis. McHugh ensures that individual fan privacy is maintained, as messages are sent to the relevant pool.

McHugh winds up our chat before she heads back into the venue to ensure all is ready for Hurdl’s debut at CMA. “No one knows who is in the seats. We predict 90% activation of our wearables. Hence we ‘hurdle over’ the existing constraints,” concludes McHugh.

Efficient marketing is the expected result.

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Pixls in action at Country Music Awards


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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