This week we delve deep into the intricate science that is event PR in Ibiza.
Where else in the world do the faces of house and techno DJs almost exclusively dominate billboards? In a climate as saturated with events as Ibiza, the key to success relies heavily on how you present your product. Given the sheer volume of parties per season (rough estimates easily run into the thousands every year), the clubbing mecca stands alone in its vast marketing potential. A flurry of stickers, flyers and posters line every wall, from cafés and bars to toilets and shop windows. The main clubs are all partnered with bars in Playa d'en Bossa, San Antonio and the Port, trading valuable ad space for free season passes. Once the season is up and running, Ibiza is one big, multi-faceted, non-stop promo campaign, with clubs and promoters competing for your commerce. As a result, the emphasis is all on how to stand out from the crowd.
Inaugurated in 2012, Richie Hawtin's ENTER. party totally flipped the game on its head. In the early stages of the season, single black dots curiously started appearing across the island, accompanied with no explanatory info. Once interest had reached fever-pitch, Hawtin revealed himself and his concept, bolstering support via a mixture of one-off PR stunts (he DJed for bathing revellers from a black rubber ring in the sea at Salinas) and a strong focus on the pervasive power of PR specialists, such as wristband, parade and image teams. The latter, which sees PR boys and girls parading ENTER.'s distinctive all-black merchandise around the island, proved especially resonant, if you consider that pretty much every outfit in Ibiza has since followed suit. In an environment where promotional material is rammed down your throat at every possible turn, Hawtin's inverse approach–to actively deny and drip-feed information–lent his product that edge and spawned what is now one of Ibiza's most viable nights.
With the bar set so high, 2013 would have to reach unprecedented heights. ANTS, Ushuaia's nascent in-house Saturday venture, rose spectacularly to the challenge. As the beach club's most musically underground party, events manager Yann Pissenem and his team set about cultivating an idea that would incorporate sound, image and crowd all into one. After all, what governs the underground realm quite like an ant? Taking the idea of the image team to the next level, a team of human ANTS were assembled and sent out across the island, dressed in full-body black onesies and armed with one simple message: Join The Colony.
In the weeks leading up to the opening, and from now until the end of the season, a revolving team of six ANTS will tirelessly dance at other parties, walk in single file through the city centre and crawl and clamber atop all manner of statues and structures. They behave, essentially, just like ants. For the first time, the idea was not to talk or parade or distribute flyers, but simply to be seen enjoying themselves, interacting with the public and spreading the message. All the while they are representing the party. As an integral cog in the colony wheel, Ibiza's workers are attributed special worker-ant status. They're given season-long wristbands on the premise that, given their vast numbers, the word will catch on. Like Hawtin did with ENTER., ANTS encourages the customer's attention to be drawn away from the commercial side of things, forging a respect and following which ultimately translates into increased ticket sales. It's fair to say, Ibiza has never seen such an innovative strategy.
Behind the scenes: Sophie Painter
Sophie Painter first arrived in Ibiza as a holidaymaker in 2005, making the decision to spend her summers permanently on the island by 2010. After two seasons working as a model, dancer and actress, she found a job as promotions manager at ENTER., helping spearhead what proved to be one of last year's most creative campaigns. Today, she works for Insane at Pacha and Sasha's new Never Say Never venture at Ushuaia Tower, taking charge of the promo teams and ensuring people hit the dancefloor. We caught up with her to uncover the secrets behind successful party promotion.
Hi Sophie. What exactly is it that a promotions manager does?
I'm in charge of two teams: I have a parade and a promo team. For Insane at Pacha for example, I'll meet up with my promo team on the Thursday lunchtime. From there we'll head to Talamanca and distribute flyers and any merchandise we might have, from badges and stickers to novelty glasses. One of us will carry a placard and we'll just wander about and talk to people about the night, answer any questions, tell them about the DJs playing. From there we'll head to Cala Bassa and Cala Comte [beaches] before returning for some food and a shower. In the evening we'll head to a few parties-often to Ushuaia or Space-and hang out there as an image team talking to people.
On Fridays we meet around lunchtime and head to Salinas to meet the parade, then Playa d'en Bossa and then to Cafe Mambo for the official pre-party. One of the DJs from Insane usually plays there and again we just hang out, distributing paraphernalia and engaging the public. From there we head back to Playa d'en Bossa to hit the bars, before ending up at the Port in Ibiza Town. This is an especially crucial period, as you can walk from there to Pacha, so it's vital for recruiting last-minute custom. We hang out there for an hour-and-a-half with the image team before heading to the club to take some photos and hand out whatever merchandise is left. After all that, we finally get to have a drink and enjoy the night.
What exactly does a promo parade consist of?
Speaking in general terms, it will most likely be made up of four attractive girls and a couple of guys all wearing outlandish outfits that correspond to the respective party. They'll have a large banner or flag with the party name and logo and will literally parade about, walking in a line, shouting out the name of the party and the DJs playing, just putting on a little performance. The promo teams talk to people, while the parade offers a more visual and vocal representation.
You were part of the inaugural ENTER. team last year. What was so unique about their campaign and the way they did things?
Working for ENTER. was absolutely amazing. What they did was so unique and fresh. It's all down to the fact that Richie Hawtin is not only a top DJ, but also super-intelligent. His ideas are extreme, but doable. His concept was to create something different for Ibiza. The idea of the black dot was totally alternative; promotion in Ibiza is traditionally all about pictures of the DJ, if not scantily clad women. All ENTER. had was the black dot, spread all over the island–it got people talking, it made people think. Every week he'd release a name, or some other titbit, and gradually people realised it was something to do with Hawtin, which made people even more excited. The concept was so strong, from the image teams to the black dot tattoos, to his set from a black rubber ring in the sea in Salinas. The ideas probably seem crazy to most people, and I'm sure most artists would shy away from being so audacious, but he doesn't and the results are there.
This year you're working for Sasha's new venture at the Ushuaia Tower. Does the fact it's a new venue make promoting the party easier or harder?
I think it's more challenging, but still as exciting. It's exciting on a personal level because it's a new venue, but it's tough in that not many people know about it. Places like Space and Amnesia carry so much weight, people trust them, so there's always that to rely on. The Ushuaia Tower is a bit more hidden, which means it requires that extra push. Thankfully I really like the venue, it's a lot more intimate than Ushuaia. I think it's going to prove to be a huge success. It's different, but I think different is good.
It must be really important to believe in the party you're promoting.
Absolutely, you couldn't do it otherwise. I couldn't work for David Guetta for example, it's just not my thing. In the past I've handed out flyers or danced at events I haven't 100 percent been behind but as a promotional manager it wouldn't work. There's no way you could motivate your teams. You have to enjoy it and believe in your party. For me, Insane offers an excellent underground alternative to what Pacha usually do, while Sasha was one of my heroes growing up.
Over the years we've seen the rise of the image teams and this year we've had ANTS taking things to the next level. What do you envisage for the future of promotion on the island?
I think the whole ANTS campaign is one of the best the island has ever seen. While I know that sex sells, I think all the clubs that just use glamorous girls are selling themselves short. ANTS is the total opposite, they're not even supposed to be human! It's really worked. Maybe we'll see people wearing crazier costumes and thinking a lot more outside the box in terms of the image teams. The thing is, ANTS have captured the spirit of Ibiza–this is a place where you can get away with acting silly, people come here to escape after all. It's fun and memorable.
Finally, what do you think is the key to successful promotion in Ibiza?
Working hard, but enjoying yourself. We're on the island, you have to enjoy what you're doing here or what's the point? Also, as a promotions manager you need to have a team of all-rounders and make sure that your team knows about the party, about the brand and the concept. They need to be up to date on all the DJs and be able to answer any questions people might have. At the end of the day though, it's all about how enthusiastic and motivating your team is. Miserable PR teams are no good to anybody. You are promoting a party, after all.
This week on the island
The arrival of ENTER.Mind arguably represents the night's most daring addition. Transforming El Salon into a murky cavern, avant-garde duo Demdike Stare played alienating soundscapes (the first kick drum sounded 30 minutes into their set) to a sparse yet inquisitive crowd. Over in the Terrazza, Tale Of Us were busy indulging the darker side of their club-centric output, moving from Ten Walls' "Gotham" through to a fitting, closing rendition of their own "Another Earth." In the packed Discoteca, Hawtin was deep into his quickfire groove, cutting a suitably busy, robotic figure. Rather than jostle for a place in the sweaty crush, I took to admiring the meticulous attention to detail of the club production. When combined with the music, it makes for the kind of cohesive, immersive clubbing experience that is much sought after, but seldom found, in Ibiza.
Entering around 2 AM, the Basement felt lively, though far from capacity. With the remainder of the night clearly in mind, Russell, AKA Cedric Maison, played airy, considered house to warm up, ending on Will Azada's remix of FCL's "It's You." Skream followed with more upfront selections, at times awkwardly toeing the line between credible pop (Prince's "Erotic City") and chart hits (Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines.") Picking up a bit towards the end, the latter stages of his set carried an urban-inflection, culminating with Tessela's raucous "Hackney Parrot." Huxley, opening with his own "Diesel," picked up the party baton with ease, cleverly lending his tracks a UK garage lean, to suit the young, British crowd. Hypercolour would do well to carve themselves out a niche as an accessible, feel-good alternative to the aforementioned island veterans's more involved fare.
Warming up the Terrazza was the enigmatic Copy Paste Soul. Mixing contemporary, vocal-laden house with a practised flair, CPS adeptly primed the room ready for Vulcano. The Circoloco resident instantly traded vox for added groove, sticking to her preferred trajectory from house through to duskier shades of techno. The pervasive bounce of her style led seamlessly into Sneak's output, as the Chicago veteran beat the crowd with an array of modern, '90s-inspired house cuts, including Cajmere's “Satisfy”. Moving through into the Discoteca, Cox was well into his headline show, effortlessly shaping and building on the room's electrifying energy. Seeing out his set with Lil Louis's "The Conversation," you could tell the heaving, 8 AM crowd were nothing but glad to be back.
Photo credits: Tasya Menaker