This is Your Laugh Ltd & Inksters – This is Your Trial
Impacts: Focus: Young people, older people
This Is Your Trial is an improvised comedy show that involves members of the audience being put on trial for laughs. In each show, at least four comedians have roles of judge, clerk, and two as lawyer/QCs. The show was originally created and designed three years ago, to be for private parties, usually birthdays or work functions. So the ‘defendant’ on trial was typically someone celebrating their birthday or stag event, in front of and with their friends.
I took the Trial format for the first time to Edinburgh in 2013 for five such private shows with local businesses. Over the subsequent ten months the show developed into a more improvised format which enabled ‘defendants’ to be pulled from the audience, and, the audiences didn’t need to be private groups. Tickets could be sold to the general public. I began to work closely with Emily Gough, an experienced live comedy producer, who also had experience with improvised comedy. Emily also had lots of contacts within professional comedy, for approaching big name comedians. I had considerable success the previous year attracting such names as Norman Lovett, Tony Law, Mark Dolan, Stuart Goldsmith and Tim Fitzhigham. Since then, we have worked more and more with Tim Fitzhigham and he has become the regular judge. Alongside Trevor Lock and Thom Tuck, we created a more consistent team of comedians. When plans were starting to finalise for Edfringe in 2014, we knew we could include people like Al Murray, Marcus Brigstocke and Phill Jupitus into the roster.
One of the five private Trial shows for local businesses in Edinburgh in 2013 included one for Inksters, a Glasgow based law firm. I had previously met Brian Inkster in London at an earlier comedy trial show I produced for a private party of lawyers. We kept in touch via twitter. He agreed to pay for a show via the Kickstarter campaign I ran to raise funding. His show would see him put on trial before an audience of his company staff. That show was great fun and of team building value to his company. The following year, I put together a sponsorship proposal for Edfringe 2014, where the Inksters brand would feature across our posters and media campaign. Brian agreed, and suggested I might apply to Arts & Business Scotland for match funding.
Arts/cultural organisation story
The aim of the project for This Is Your Laugh Ltd, was to expose the brand and the format of the show to the wider public and comedy industry. It was also to attract interest from broadcasters and production companies and especially to have more, established and newer comedians to add to our already impressive list. It was considered important to have more comedians, established names, to ‘have a go’ at doing the show to prepare us even more for future live shows and opportunities to seek TV commissions. The experience of an intense run of 20 shows in 25 days was also important to fully test the format, the production and understand the show. We were able to test some new ideas too, including celebrity or guest defendants and extra QCs.
This Is Your Laugh Ltd is a relatively new company in the world of producing live comedy shows. We already realised we had a very good show, a strong and easily identified format so the exposure of the show to the Edinburgh comedy festival was essential to test it out amongst the toughest competition for audiences. The awareness of the show has increased exponentially in a very short, intensive time, through our time in Edinburgh. Beyond the audiences who went to see the show, many people became aware of it through the press and media we attracted and have asked about future shows they can come and see in London and beyond, because they were unable to see it in Edinburgh. Hiring a specialist PR person was made possible by the receipt of sponsorship and grant money and this helped with the exposure to the press.
The activity on twitter, with regular photos, news of star comedians taking part, sharing of those tweets and images by those comedians, the Inksters scoreboard with a list of participating talent, spread the overall awareness to all those fans of the participating comedians. Examples of those who took part, sharing those tweets include Al Murray, Marcus Brigstocke, Sara Pascoe and Greg McHugh. Just their combined reach totals half a million followers. Posts on Facebook also reached 1000s of new people.
With the sponsorship money and the New Arts Sponsorship grant, we were able to spend a significant amount of money on promotions ahead of trying to sell tickets. That promotion entailed large billboard, posters, a flyering team, and a PR person. That investment in promotion certainly aided ticket sales. It also resulted in a significant amount of press and media attention. Competition for attention was greater than ever this year and with national press critics actually spending even less time covering the festival, there was a tension felt across the board for all shows and performances, not receiving the attention hoped and expected. I am especially pleased we achieved what we did. To deliver a maximum result for our sponsors, we had to think smart. It became clear that getting any sort of interviews from the press and media would be difficult and then to engineer any mention of the sponsors within those articles, another challenge.
Despite having some great stories of how the show was developed, the legal theme and the direct connection that could be made to the sponsors, we needed to create something different. So an idea of a scoreboard came about. This would feature in every show, listing the participating comedians and would be updated for every show. I suggested to Brian Inkster that his company logo could be at the top of the board and then it could be mentioned within the shows and photos of it used for continuing publicity. This worked a treat. Comedians were tweeting these photos to their followers resulting in Inksters' brand being spread to new people.
Inksters created their own flyers which included a promotion of their legal services and a competition for audience members to enter by tweeting funny lines they enjoyed from the show. This was actually quite a challenge to get weary audience members to take yet another flyer. But with some smart work by the comedians, a special feature was written into the show which encouraged audiences to participate. In addition, by encouraging audience members to tweet their favourite lines in the show to enter a competition with #trialinksters written into each tweet, I believe Inksters were able to manage some data and response for their own marketing campaign. Inksters also got a credit in the promotional video we used to support the marketing for the show, on the Assembly Festival website and other social media campaigns. Brian used his complimentary tickets, seeing the show at least four times himself, but also several; of his staff and clients were able to use them.
I believe this was very good for Inksters, the company and the brand, reinforcing his reputation as a 'forward thinking' law firm. On the other side, Inksters did manage their own campaign much better. Taking every opportunity to attend shows, invite clients and guests, utilising social media and raising their own profile as proud sponsors. I will take value from both experiences to share that knowledge with potential sponsors in the future to manage a more thorough and valuable campaign for both my show and the sponsors' identity.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe was affected by the existence of the Commonwealth Games happening in Glasgow at the start of August. Most shows and people in Edinburgh spoke about the noticeable shortage of people for the first two weeks. This came alongside the additional competition of even more comedy shows, the largest number of them ever. These were challenges faced by everyone this year. In addition, the shows that were selling tickets were facing even more competition from other business models for live shows, ones that were perceived by audiences as ‘free’ shows. Those other models, operated on an expectation for donations by attending audiences. But because they are pitched as ‘free’ shows, they often got more people through the door first before ticketed shows. The truth was that donations are asked for and expected by audiences to ‘free’ shows.
We were a ticketed show, aware of these challenges, which was why our strategy for marketing had to be robust and comprehensive. We knew we had to make a big splash early on to be able to attract those ticket buying audiences. Our strategy needed to respond to these challenges, adapting for each and every show. Keeping awareness of what was happening for each show, bringing in new comedians, telling people on the street about this. The flyering team needed to be across what the show was, to be able to sell tickets and to talk about it. Our use of comp tickets needed to be measured. There was a limited availability of them.
The project included 20 shows. The room seated 76 people at capacity. We outperformed all expectations and comparable shows and enjoyed a total of 57% of all tickets for the shows being sold. This was a tremendous achievement during a whole Edinburgh Fringe that suffered from lower than usual ticket sales and more competition from other shows than ever before.
There were at least 866 people who bought tickets and came to the shows. With an additional two or three hundred people who came to see the show with either complimentary tickets since they were industry people or because they had passes for the Assembly spaces for being staff. The word of mouth response from people who came to shows such as our flyering team and Assembly staff was a key to our success. The recommendations from the Assembly staff came freely and our activity on social media, in league with one of our sponsors, Inksters was very helpful.
The importance of receiving sponsorship and match funding was immense. It enabled us to pay for an effective marketing plan for the show, and also ensure everybody who worked so hard to make the show a success was paid at least something for their efforts. This is no mean feat, where many shows are reliant on just goodwill and donation of talent. We needed to establish our professional approach because we are a new outfit seeking to challenge some of the more established shows with a head start of several years more experience than us. The location for our venue was a little hidden, so extra effort was required to help audiences find us. The purchase of a large bill board was extremely important towards this end. It really worked in making our show visible.
The grant enabled us to be versatile, to adapt to challenges unforeseen. It was so important to employ flyerers to sell the tickets. We could hire them on a flexible basis as and when needed. We could take on new comedians, even extra comedians when different shows required them. Buying some stage furniture and props was not fully anticipated, but really added to the look and feel of the show, raising the production values.