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All the party people

By The Drum, Administrator

September 24, 2004 | 6 min read

The hottest ticket in town

What’s the catch? Free drinks, passes to Glasgow’s hottest venues, rubbing shoulders with like-minded souls (as well as the odd celeb) and tickets to some of Scotland’s most exclusive nights. There must be a catch?

The DADA revolution started almost two years ago, but now that the word is out the phenomenon is growing. With more than 12,000 members in Glasgow alone (and 2,000 members already in Edinburgh, a number which is set to soar when the system is launched in the east in earnest) DADA is set to take Scotland by storm.

DM with a 100 per cent uptake is the stuff of dreams for marketers. For DADA it is commonplace.

DADA is the brainchild of entrepreneur Oli Norman. At the age of twenty six, Norman already has a lifetime’s experience under his belt. Following five years training to be a lawyer he joined law firm McGrigors. But his brush with the law was brief and, after just six months, he quit and uprooted to the Far East to work at an International Shipping company, IMT.

“They soon realised I could bullshit quite a bit,” reflects Norman. “It was a great experience. Some of the deals I was involved in were just phenomenal. I was party to a deal that saw our company take over a Korean shipping company for $600m. We were buying ships for $40m and I was either man two or man three on all these deals.

“Maybe I should never have been put in those positions, but I was, and it was an incredible baptism of fire.”

After just over a year in the Far East Norman came back and decided to “get into TV”. He ended up with Ideal World, working with Hamish Barbour, “doing development and coming up with ideas for TV programmes.”

With a “pretty rounded” career path already under his belt, including some freelance journalism on the side – breaking front-page stories for some of the major tabloid papers (Royal scandals predominantly – subsequently Piers Morgan offered Norman a job, which he refused, “not wanting to become a tabloid hack”).

Then came DADA. “The original concept for DADA was very different to what it’s turned into today,” says Norman. “The original idea was to put on events for young professionals.

“However, we were asked to do a bar launch, and this led to us being asked to organise a series of parties and launches. In doing this, what we realised was, when you get invitations to all these private parties and launches, there are the same old haggard faces of the so-called VIP crowd at each one. All they seemed to do was come along, drink all the free booze and slag the place off, regardless of whether the venue was good or not, and then they leave disgruntled. What launch parties don’t do is actually bring in the people who are going to come back and enjoy the place.

“What would be far better would be if you could open the place up to the people who are actually going to use the place, and that’s where DADA, as we now know it, comes in.

“For venues, the only way you can truly market yourself effectively is to bring the target market in. You can advertise, flyer, whatever. However, unless you physically bring the targeted persons in, they will not be able to form an opinion.

“The most powerful tool in marketing is word of mouth, and that is the basis that DADA operates on. DADA is the third party. It’s the friend who would recommend where to go out.”

DADA ( has developed a powerful e-mail-based system that allows them to target a defined database of members. And with members growing at a rate from 20–80 a day, the market is getting wider.

Members are asked to give details of their job, position, salary, location and interests. From there, the DADA system can accurately attract a highly defined target audience, as requested by clients, and invites are sent out via e-mail.

“We’ve kept it as an exclusive service, where all the events are of a high quality, and they are hard to get into.

“DADA’s system works on two levels. It is interactive and allows you to find out more about the event and the venue through the e-mail invites that are sent to the guest list.

“The system entirely event-manages the function from start to finish. It will select guests, it will set a capacity and monitor that capacity, allowing guests to be added if people withdraw.

“When we send out an invitation to an event it is fully booked within the hour. Many clients are very specific about what they want and who they want to invite, but with the information we have, that is made easy.”

A few jokes are passed about being able to target females, aged 18–25, with a salary of over £40,000, and being able to get them all in the one bar at the same time. However, a serious point comes from this fantasy. “That is really when we see the power of the system. When you see all these people – of the exact target demographics, filling the venue, having a fantastic time – you know it’s working.”

“The system we developed is really sophisticated in terms of the logic and technology it uses. But despite its power, it is simple, and that’s the beauty of it.”

Already utilising this technology are clients that include Budda, the Radisson, Langs, The Lighthouse, Metropolitan, Orange, Channel 4, Greens and Space NK to name a few.

However, DADA also boasts a prestigious list of pure PR clients too (including Oran-Mor, Bo-Concepts and Stravaigin).

“The PR aspect of the business is very important,” continues Oliver. “Traditionally PR companies do not achieve the results that they should for their clients. We have come into this sector as the specialist. We generate PR for clients, and we generate results. The market is so saturated that clients now need to be a lot more sophisticated in their marketing.”


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