“David Bowie is” – Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A)

AMEC Awards WinnerCategory: Best Use of Measurement for a Single Event
Client/Entering Company: Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A)
Campaign title: “David Bowie is”
Company Name: Gorkana
Supporting Materials


David Bowie VandAAs the world’s greatest museum of art and design, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London (V&A) exists to educate and inspire. In common with other national British museums, entrance to the V&A has been free since 2001, so membership and ticketed exhibitions are essential for driving revenue. The V&A has large galleries devoted to temporary exhibitions and, in a typical year, will stage more than a dozen of these exhibitions.

In 2013, the V&A gained unprecedented access to the David Bowie Archive to curate the first international career retrospective of an exceptional artist and performer. With sponsorship from Gucci, and the sound experience that defined the exhibition provided by Sennheiser, investment was significant, expectations were high and the opportunity, along with the pressure, to surpass previous successes was clear.

The main objective of an extensive, integrated marketing campaign was to hit a visitor target of 230,000 over a six-month period. Secondary objectives included attracting new audiences who had not previously visited the V&A, generate excitement for the new exhibition, secure advance ticket sales as a key early revenue stream and work to make ‘David Bowie is’ the most talked about exhibition of the year.

The PR team also had to demonstrate the effectiveness of its work and integrate learnings into future exhibition strategies. Gorkana was appointed to achieve this by:

  • measuring the impact of PR on ticket sales to give a tangible value to the business
  • demonstrating effective outreach to new and diverse audiences, including global ones
  • providing effective information to help the Corporate Partnerships team justify sponsor investment and bring in future sponsorship revenue
  • providing a benchmark for evaluating future exhibitions and insight to inform future strategies


David Bowie VandA The timing of different activities was key to isolating the PR effect on ticket sales from the rest of the marketing mix. The PR campaign led with a media launch long before other marketing activity was activated, and some six months before the scheduled opening of the exhibition. Regression analysis was used to find a causal link between PR activity and advance ticket sales.

To evaluate the effectiveness of reaching new and diverse audiences, we used market research to model each audience in order to understand their respective media consumption. This enabled us to understand whether the right media had been targeted to engage these audiences and convert them into visitors.

We sourced and analysed international content, in the native language, from 37 countries, both to gauge levels of interest and then to see how successful the communications campaign had been in different markets. Importantly, the research was scoped to help inform business decisions about where to take the exhibition next.

To support the sponsors’ objectives, we also took into consideration the proliferation of sponsor mentions. These were mapped to the market research to demonstrate the breadth of audiences reached by exhibition content that effectively communicated sponsor messaging and brand values.

Often overlooked, but crucial to the resonance of this research in the context of the ‘David Bowie is’ exhibition, was the ability to make the information visually striking and easy to communicate to multiple audiences.


David Bowie VandAKPI measurement framework
Gorkana saw the opportunity to link PR and earned media efforts to the V&A’s business outcomes. To help with clarity, and effectively communicate the role of PR to internal stakeholders, we devised, visualised and circulated a measurement framework that cascaded the V&A’s business aims through to the role of PR and finally down to well defined, qualitative earned media KPIs that would effectively demonstrate the link between content and business outcomes. This served as the first step to moving the senior management team away from more quantitative measures as an appraisal of PR success.

Mainstream qualitative analysis
Human analysts reviewed and coded mainstream media content in multiple languages to
ensure that the nuances of V&A and sponsor messaging could be extracted. The KPI measurement framework defined the earned media content measures that were used. Critically, we also included metrics tracking calls to action, including ticket details and website URLs. The V&A had the highest number of visitors it had ever seen during an opening week, which could be attributed to the earned media coverage

Audience targeting
The exhibition aimed to attract fans of new music, fashion and performance who had not previously visited the V&A and were traditionally non-museum going audiences. So we cross-referenced the earned media content with market research (sample: 10,000 UK adults) into media consumption to determine if the right audiences had been reached. The research was also used to disaggregate cross readership and accurately determine if the target audiences had been exposed to messaging about the exhibition, as well as content crediting the sponsors. Music fans – a social group typically underrepresented among traditional museum visitors – were a particular focus. The reporting demonstrated effective targeting and call to action communication to these new and diverse audiences.

Sponsorship success

The V&A had a contractual obligation to provide a full exhibition report to the joint sponsors, so we isolated sponsor mentions and created individual research reports
for the individual sponsors. These outlined delivery of the campaign
against sponsors’ objectives to demonstrate a return on their investment, as well as provide the Corporate Partnerships team with evidence of success to drive future investment.

Business outcomes

The early PR launch contributed to the sale of more than 67,000 tickets before the exhibition opening, more than three times the advance sales of any other V&A exhibition previously.
Visual engagement and stakeholder communication
The research was presented to all major internal and external stakeholders, learnings were discussed which was fed into the planning of future exhibitions.


David Bowie VandAThe well-scoped research, effectively linked to marketing objectives and business outcomes, clearly demonstrated the significant impact of the press launch and subsequent press campaign on exhibition ticket sales ahead of the exhibition opening.

The research also affirmed the role of PR in ensuring that the V&A successfully reached new audiences in the UK and internationally; provided the Museum with hard evidence of a positive ROI; and delighted the two sponsors. The exhibition exceeded the visitor target by 36 percent: 27 percent of attendees were first time visitors and 24 percent were from

The data is now being used to make business cases when pitching to future sponsorship
prospects, demonstrating the high value of PR recognition that V&A sponsorships can achieve. The longevity of the success of the campaign continues to play out. V&A membership saw a positive rise during the exhibition, with more than 10,000 people joining and taking V&A membership to an all-time high.

Name of contact: Paul Hender
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: + 44 (0) 207 674 020