ABC Goes Dancing in the Streets

What Everyone Is Talking About

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NEW YORK ( -- ABC unleashed dozens of stars on New York streets this morning to promote
dark chocolate Photo: Andrew Hampp
A star-studded promotion hit midtown this morning to promote ABC's 'Dancing With the Stars.'
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the third-season premiere of its hit reality show "Dancing With the Stars." But celebrity dancers Tucker Carlson, Vivica Fox and Jerry Springer were nowhere to be found. Instead, the network employed 110 professional dancers across New York to perform a very literal interpretation of its hit show's title -- 55 men in giant gold-star costumes paired with women in formal black dance attire.

110 'stars'
Beginning at 7 a.m. and culminating in a 110-person "all-star" lineup in Lincoln Square at 6 p.m. tonight, the promotion will have performers everywhere from the Richard Rodgers Theatre and Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square to the South Street Seaport to the Brooklyn Bridge, with several subway stops in between. More than 50 street-team members in black and gold "Dancing With the Stars" T-shirts were also on hand to distribute star magnets with the show's air-time information.

The production piqued the interest of at least a few New Yorkers. Many stopped between subway stops in Times Square to take in a few minutes of two star couples who partnered with a street musician for fiddle accompaniment.

"'Dancing With the Stars' tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC!'" cried a street-team member. "Be there or be square-danced!"

'Thought it was the real stars'
Wendell Desilva, a Brooklyn security guard, said he had watched the show in previous seasons and had a mixed reaction at the sight of the two-stepping stars. "I saw them on the Grand Central side and I thought it was the real stars," said Mr. Desilva, who was a fan of Jerry Rice's moves in season two.

Brad Leich, a research director in Manhattan, was more transfixed by the dancing than he was by the marketing tools shimmying in front of him. "Actually, I'll consider watching the show now that I'm seeing this," he said with a laugh.

But not everyone was impressed by the star-studded stunt. "I watch the show -- it's my favorite show -- but for people who know it, nobody cares," said Officer Macchia, a New York policewoman taking in the spectacle with three of her fellow officers at the Times Square subway station. "You should put somebody who really knows how to dance out there. Then people will say 'Oh my God, what is that?'"

Citywide event
The citywide event was the latest in a line of inventive promotions for ABC, which has placed ads for deserted-island series "Lost" on beaches and plastered the cast of "Desperate Housewives" on bags at laundries along with the message "Everyone has some dirty laundry."

All the broadcast networks have been in a bit of an arms race to outdo one another to promote their fall shows. CBS has done everything from issuing postage stamps with stars' faces on them to stamping eggs with the names of its shows. NBC is streaming its shows online at AOL a week before the TV debut, and has also made shows available to the Netflix audience via free DVDs.

"We had been playing around with this for awhile now," said Michael Benson, senior VP-marketing at ABC Entertainment. "We're always trying to figure out how we can get people to notice our programming."

'Good Morning America'
Although the "Stars" venture was geographically limited to New York, it also received national attention with a performance on "Good Morning America" with Diane Sawyer this morning. "For these things to have the most impact, it works better as part of an overall awareness campaign," Dan Mannix, president-chief operating officer of LeadDog Marketing Group, which partnered with ABC for the "Stars" campaign.

A ratings smash during its first two seasons in summer 2005 and winter 2006, the show makes its fall debut in its third installment tonight at 8 p.m.

"It has good name recognition," Mr. Mannix said. "Otherwise it makes it tougher to get people excited about the show. Guys may not relate to dancing as much as girls, but if they're into sports they might tune in for Emmitt Smith. Or if they like politics, there's Tucker Carlson."
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