Creating Connections With Inside Jokes Shared By 6 Million People

I believe it was that shared a story a week or so ago about the Philadelphia Inquirer’s attempt to increase subscriptions and engage a younger audience with an ad campaign that makes inside jokes about life in and around the city.

The article put me in mind of the idea that while sharing in inside information creates a sense of belonging, for arts organizations the idea that there are rules you need to know in order to not stick out creates a sense of alienation. Though there are obvious benefits to citing insider knowledge shared by 6 million people living in the greater Philadelphia area. Arts and cultural organizations might tap into a similar situation on a smaller scale in their own communities in order to build a greater sense of connection and identity.

The Inquirer campaign employs the repetition of the simple phrase, “Unsubscribe from…, subscribe to…” So for example, “Unsubscribe from one-bell city, Subscribe to Nobel-winning city,” referring to two University of Pennsylvania scientists recent win of a Nobel prize and, of course, the Liberty Bell.”

Another does a call out to the mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers, “Unsubscribe from Philly is gritty, Subscribe to Gritty is Philly.” And other references the city’s iconic LOVE sculpture and Greek translation of the city’s name as “city of brotherly love:” “Unsubscribe from I heart NYC, subscribe to Philly love.”

As you might imagine, people are coming up with their own ideas for couplets following the same pattern.

There isn’t any clear indication about how much the campaign may have increased subscriptions, but with 85,000 digital subscribers, they are within striking distance of their goal to get 90,000 by the end of the year.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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