Talkers Turn to Stunts

Established shows need attention

Unlike network prime, syndicated talk shows air five days a week, every week, seemingly without a break.

So when the new TV season starts, viewers scarcely recognize that their favorite talkers have entered a new year, too, while newcomers, like this year's The Doctors and The Bonnie Hunt Show, get the headlines and promo dollars.

Up against that, syndication's tried-and-true talkers have to work hard to get noticed each September. Each show has its own strategy, whether partnering with a charity or sending an RV all over the country to meet the masses.

NBC Universal's Jerry Springer, entering its 18th season, is taking a light-hearted approach, creating a campaign around how it's finally time for the never-nominated talk-show host to win an Emmy.

“What inspired the Emmy campaign was that Jerry made an off-the-cuff remark on set about how this is the year that we're finally going to win the Emmy and everyone found it really funny. It became this bigger idea of creating a tongue-in-cheek campaign around that notion,” says Betsy Bergman, VP of marketing for NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution.

Click image to watch the clip.

Springer also plans to return to its roots this year, bringing on wilder guests with crazier stories and the expectation that someone will get into a fight.

Meanwhile, Springer spin-off Steve Wilkos is taking a more serious approach, partnering with charity USA Cares to raise awareness about the organization, which provides struggling military families with financial and advocacy support.

Wilkos, a former Marine, learned about USA Cares while he was appearing on fellow USA Cares supporter Dennis Miller's radio show over the summer. Wilkos was immediately sold. It only took a few weeks to shoot national public service announcements that will run in the show, and Wilkos himself plans to travel around the country promoting the organization.

On the lighter side, Disney-ABC's Live With Regis and Kelly inducted its 21st season by developing an interactive contest. Combining two things the show's producers love to have on the show—trivia and dance—the show worked with Quaker Oats to create “Live's Cash Dance Trivia” contest.

“Quaker's marketing campaign centers around people celebrating that they're 'living proof that Quaker helps us lower our cholesterol,'” says Sandra Szahun, VP of national promotions for Disney-ABC Domestic Television Distribution. “And it's an opportunity for viewers to get involved with the show on a different level.”

To participate in the challenge, contestants shoot a video of themselves dancing—whether that be at home in their living room or all around their home city—and upload or mail it to the show. Each day through Sept. 26 a winning video will be selected and that viewer will have a chance to win $10,000 by answering a trivia question correctly. 

Click image to watch the clip.

In October, the five best dancers—as selected by the show's online audience—will be invited to come to New York and compete for the Quaker Dance Your Heart Out Grand Prize worth $50,000.

Finally, Rachael Ray is sending Amazing Race 2 winner Alex Boylan on a 40-day tour of the country in a Fleetwood RV. He and his crew are finding hidden American gems—like a remote ranch in Wyoming (watch the clip below)—or jumping into someone's kitchen to help them solve a crisis. Every day, Boylan files a video blog that airs in full on the show's site at

“By far the most e-mails we get are from people who want Rachael to come to their town or to come cook in their kitchen,” says Janet Annino, the show's executive producer. “It's physically impossible for her to do that, so we created this 'Rach to the Rescue' van.

“We've given viewers a whole new way to feel like they are part of the show. We put out the call and they've responded. Plus now we have an RV driving across America with Rachael's face on it and that can't hurt.”