Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel share the secret of advertising.

Jay, Jimmy and I hang out all the time . . . in the back of cabs.

I’m of course referring to TaxiTV and the non-stop promos that run of Jay and Jimmy’s respective TV shows.

Just the other day, the three of us were taking a trip down to the Lower East Side together, and I realized that they knew as much about advertising as they do about comedy.

See the spots that run in the back of those hacks aren’t 30 or 60 second commercials.  They’re 30 or 60 seconds clips from their shows . . . in their entirety.  You watch a bit of Jay’s monologue, or a Jimmy Kimmel sketch.  There’s no announcer screaming quotes at you, or trumpeting awards. There’s just the content saying, “Hey, like this?  If you do, you should tune in.  If you don’t like it, it’s not for you.”

It’s confidence in the content . . . and it works.

Of course, it’s much easier to advertise TV on TV.  Because you’re experiencing the content in the same way it was meant to be experienced.  Same thing with movies.  Which puts the theater (and live entertainment) at a serious marketing disadvantage (which is why we scream those quotes and trumpet those awards).

What we should be looking for is more ways to get our live content in front of our potential audience.  We need to tease people with the actual experience they are going to have in the theater.

What about putting singers in the lobbies of theaters to do a tune or two during intermission – entertain the troops as they wait for the ladies’ room and turn ’em on to a new show.  What about providing Times Square restaurants with a performer to sing a little ditty during dessert?  Or what about a daily performance on the TKTS steps . . . kind of like when a show breaks out on Main Street USA in Disneyland?

Jimmy and Jay have a “chin” up on us because of how much easier it is to market their medium.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t figure out ways to give them a run for their monologue.


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  • Emily says:

    The real question is which would be cheaper, ‘traditional’ print and television advertising, or paying your performers to show off the show?

    • Daniel says:

      Here is a question to that: which one (traditional ad or paying for performers) will get more interest sparked to the people and in the end get more tickets/people coming to shows?

  • It might give the understudies something to do. It would be great to have performances during intermissions– and after the show– reciprocal agreements between musicals. Maybe even sneak previews.

  • Jay might have more of a “chin” up than Jimmy, lol. #mean

  • Stephen Marmon says:

    That’s a great idea! Have Broadway wantabees performing bits from show all day long in front of TKTS! Heck, have a 5 minute preview of every show throughout the day. Do it on the hour at TKTS, then on half-hour at in Bryant Park, then… Show people the real thing and they will want to go see it!

  • I think if we were allowed to tape our shows ourselves at everythe level without interference at every turn from Actors Equity we couldn use Youtube and other outlets for promotion exactly like Leno and Kimmel use TV by showing 30 second clips. It is not in the actors’ best interest to have these limitations

  • Don Reed says:

    Ken,from a unique perspective of someone who works at the Tonight Show with Jay Leno every day (I’m the warm-up comedian), in an unrelated position years ago at NBC used to promote the show and someone who performs theatre every weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area — I can genuinely say you’re onto something! Perhaps once developed this can be one of your new speaker series/classes. Executed properly – something like the performances outside of TKTS or a small cast performing an excerpt from the show in the style of a “trailer” with one cast member essentially doing the “voice over” part — could be very, very interesting. You always keep us thinkin’ and creatively-motivated, Ken.

  • Isn’t that what the Tony Awards are supposed to be for? I loved when Mandy Patinkin talked about preparing for the Tony Awards for THE SECRET GARDEN and how the montage didn’t make any sense, but it was just an ad (that was many years ago, so I don’t remember what he exactly said and what I added). But I first got really interested in non-musical plays the year that ANGELS IN AMERICA, SISTERS ROSENWEIG, etc. had clips on the Tonys. I love the few times they’ve done that. I wish they would do that more often. It was the only glimpse that I could get of those shows being a teenager in Georgia with no money. Also, when I went out to Broadway the year RENT opened, I was too afraid to spend money on a show that was supposed to be great, but I didn’t know if it would be something I would like, so I went to see SHOWBOAT. I later kicked myself when I saw the clips on the Tony Awards. Although in my defense, I still don’t like PULP FICTION or NAPOLEON DYNAMITE so “clever” works of art do not necessarily translate to something worth spending my money on. As for NEXT TO NORMAL, I am a grateful Tonys/Youtube person. I didn’t see the point of sitting through the Tony Awards the year (particularly with SHREK and–I’m sorry…I wasn’t impressed with the idea of BILLY ELLIOT [I liked the movie, but I also liked THE FULL MONTY and then it was made into a musical–which I do admit the musical is a guilty pleasure]). Anyway, to make a long story short–too late, I had only one compelling reason to watch the Tonys and that was NPH. I watched the end of the Tonys clip on YouTube and then decided to watch some of the Tony speeches (b/c there’s usually one or two that’s inspiring). I watched the clip of Alice Ripley and I said “who is this person and what is NEXT TO NORMAL? I need to watch that clip right now.” And the rest was history–going to see the show eight times and writing a book. We need more of that more times during the year. Rosie O’Donnell did that on her talk show in the ’90s. Anyone remember E! Behind the Scenes (when E! wasn’t just trash tv showing trash tv?). That show showed behind the scenes of the tour of THE SECRET GARDEN, A CHORUS LINE revival on Broadway, CATS on Broadway, LES MIZ on tour, MISS SAIGON… Why doesn’t this happen as much anymore?

  • Terrence Cranert says:

    Isn’t it time to challenge Actors Equity as to the amount of video that can be used to promote a show on the internet? The union needs to balance protecting the performers versus job creation. The more shows produced the more jobs for the out of work actors. We need to negotiate for more air time to be able to promote like Leno.

  • Chris says:

    As long as I’ve worked in theatre, I’ve always fancied the idea of a live pianist playing show tunes in the lobby before the show. Not sure where I got that notion, but when Winter Park Playhouse (Orlando, FL) moved into our current space three years ago, we had a baby grand in the lobby, and I just started playing half an hour before shows. I don’t know that it increases ticket sales, but it does increase bar sales – guests will come early specifically to hang out and have a drink or two before the show, because there is live music. It has also allowed us to establish a highly successful series of Spotlight Cabaret nights, when we add extra seats and cafe tables and present local performers in a Don’t Tell Mama-inspired cabaret setting on dark nights.

    There are also opportunities to present scenes from our shows at local art-fests, street fairs, etc. (we recently did a few numbers from Pete ‘n’ Keely at the Winter Park ArtsWalk) – the trouble is that these events are usually during show times, so the staff can’t get to them.

  • Ahem — Actors Equity, hello:) As an INYP (Important NY Producer) perhaps you could get a discussion going with the union?

  • Donald Sanborn III says:

    In the late Victorian era, most shows were preceded by short “curtain raisers,” a piece about fifteen minutes long in the style of the main attraction. Big music stars still have up and coming musicians do an “opening act” for them, so perhaps, like a trailer for a movie, there could be a Broadway-on-Broadway type of excerpt performed from a new show before the curtain, well, rises on a show that’s been running for a while. I”m quite well aware that this would entail negotiations and logistics galore, but I think it’s feasible.

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