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Delightful direct campaign for the Arts Centre


Delightful direct campaign for the Arts Centre


Campaign: Sally’s First Show

Client: Arts Centre Melbourne

Agency: OgilvyOne Melbourne


Seeing a live performance can change the course of a child’s life and career. But if you live far away from a theatre – or you don’t have much money – it’s hard to get the opportunity to see a show.

To give as many Victorian primary and secondary students access to as many live performances as possible, Arts Centre Melbourne set up the First Call Fund. Since 2008, the First Call Fund has enabled over 15,000 Victorian students (and their 1520 teachers) to experience the performing arts at Arts Centre Melbourne, many for the first time. This inspiring program is funded through the generosity of donors.


The objective of the ‘Sally’s First Show’ campaign developed by OgilvyOne Melbourne was to increase donations by about 23% on the previous year, while mailing to a smaller audience.


Ogilvy’s insight was simple: the audience (people on Arts Centre Melbourne’s mailing list) want to share their passion for the performing arts with others. So the key message was that a donation to the First Call Fund would bring children closer to the performing arts. It allowed art lovers to feel they were contributing to the arts and inspiring a new generation of patrons and performers. The communication was delivered entirely by mail – a single pack sent to 12,000 recipients.

With five natural disasters in quick succession (floods in Victoria, floods and a cyclone in Queensland, a tsunami in Japan and an earthquake in Christchurch), we recognised that this market was tired of bleak or distressing pleas for help. We took opposite approach and cut through with something positive and upbeat. We knew the target market was passionate about the arts, so we sent them a charming children’s book to dramatise the benefit of the First Call Fund.


Based on a number of real-life case study examples, the buoyant creative told a story of a student, Sally, who has the opportunity to experience a performance at Arts Centre Melbourne for the first time. The book begins with drama-loving Sally holding dances and concerts and puppet shows for herself in her small country town. Having no exposure to the arts, her friends aren’t interested in joining in. But a magical trip to Arts Centre Melbourne changes all that and soon everyone wants to be part of Sally’s act.

Because it didn’t feel like a piece of advertising, this piece thoroughly engaged the recipients. In fact, many of them wrote back to Arts Centre Melbourne praising the book.


OgilvyOne Melbourne developed a direct mail pack and follow-up postcard to be sent to the Arts Centre Melbourne database to drive donations. The follow-up postcard was sent a week later to those recipients that had not yet donated to the fund. The messaging was tailored to past and new donors.


The cover included a personalised thank-you message with the donor’s name where the author’s name would usually appear. A personalised letter was included on the inside cover, and the donation form on the back was pre-populated with the recipient’s information to make it easier for them to donate.

The book itself was a thing of beauty. It involved handcrafted typography, 10 bespoke illustrations and graphic manipulation of textures to really make it feel like a proper children’s book. The paper was slightly textured too, to make it more tactile.

Cover and spread


The pack achieved an 88% increase on the donation increase target and 132% increase on the previous year.

Response rates increased 232% year on year and the average donation amount increased by 106%.

Of course, with a project like this, it’s not just about percentages and dollar figures. Judith Isherwood, chief executive, Arts Centre Melbourne says, “As a result of donations received from this campaign, an extra 3500 children will be able to visit Arts Centre Melbourne and engage with our programs and activities.”

Additionally, the campaign won the following awards:

  • 2011 ADMA Bronze for Flat Mail,
  • 2011 ADMA Silver for Art Direction Craft,
  • 2011 Caples Bronze for Direct Mail, Flat,
  • 2011 Mobius Gold for Copywriting,
  • 2011 Mobius Silver for Art Direction,
  • 2011 Mobius Best of Show for Direct,
  • 2012 ECHO Bronze for Not for Profit, and
  • 2012 ECHO Gold Mailbox Award (USPS).


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