Flyering in the Face of Progress

by Cat Timoney

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

How marketing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has evolved

The Royal Mile Shows The Edinburgh Fringe Banners for Scottish PR Agency Story

IT’S THAT time of year again. The month that Scotland’s capital becomes a blur of music, drama, comedy, food and becomes packed to the rafters with tourists.

August brings five famous festivals to Edinburgh, comprising the Edinburgh International Festival, The Fringe Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Remarkably, this summer marks the 70th year of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, an impressive seven decades of sell out shows, five star reviews and its fair share of full-blown flops.

For many locals, “the Fringe” is synonymous with frustrated attempts to slalom down the main thoroughfares without being hassled to go to a show. I know this, because I spent a summer hassling people to go to shows.

Standing in the glorious Edinburgh summer, kitted out in my “August in Edinburgh” attire – (a jumper, two fleeces and a cagoule) I took to the streets of Auld Reekie handing out hundreds of flyers, encouraging ticket sales and more often than not being told to “LEAVE ME ALONE”.

Looking all the way back to the beginning, it is fascinating to see how the marketing of shows has evolved and what remains constant today and for the foreseeable future.


Beginning in 1947 (although not given an official name until 1948), theatre companies flocked to Edinburgh to make the most of the gathering crowds brought by the Edinburgh International Festival. Not part of the official programme, these companies performed anyway, monopolising the already large audiences in Edinburgh. These were the days before internet when companies relied on the spread of shows by word of mouth and a good review in the newspaper.

Next came the flyering as the primary method of marketing. Hundreds of thousands of flyers were handed out with an enticing picture, information about the show and more often than not past reviews.

This method proved effective and popular – and in an increasingly crowded market,  with the huge competition for attention making the physical act of putting a colourful flyer in somebody’s hand a necessity.



Then, something amazing happened – the internet was born opening up a whole new world for both Fringe Acts and Fringe goers. It also facilitated a whole new platform for production companies to market their shows.

Now, it is so easy to look up a show, buy tickets online and either have them delivered straight to your door, or pick them up at one of the many box offices across Edinburgh.

This freedom for punters to be able to look shows up online helped fuel the importance of the digital marketing side of the Fringe.

With Social Media now a huge influencer, it is pivotal that as well as flyering and spreading shows via word of mouth, each show is fully set up with a website, Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter – with repeat performers building loyal following outside of festival season.

As well as allowing acts to connect with their audience, publish reviews and show information and engage with other acts to build connections and increase the chances of a show being recommended.

It also allows the audience to reach out through social media tagging the performers or hashtagging the name of the performance.


Although the birth and success of social media and the internet has undoubtedly influenced show recommendations and critical to the success of the majority of the best-selling shows, there is one element that keeps those students looking to earn some summer pocket money to devote themselves to flyering the streets of Edinburgh.

The beauty of the Fringe is the spontaneity. Many people don’t know what they want and will just make their way to a designated Fringe area and look to be persuaded.

As more and more companies look to digital for marketing, it is likely that the Fringe’s use of the web to market shows will only increase, but it is unlikely that this will mark the end for those poor souls who remain, flyering in the face of progress.

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