“My comedy is different every time I do it,” Adam Sandler has said. “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” While the Sandman may be exaggerating, anyone who’s been to a stand-up venue knows that the ability to improvise is key to a comedian’s success. The best place to practice those improvising abilities? On a Levity Live stage.
Levity Live, (who purchased the Improv brand last year), is a three-armed laugh machine: A robust production division develops a variety of unscripted programming including standup specials and series (most recently Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents series); a boutique talent management division represents a roster of comedic artists including Sebastian Maniscalco (who hit the highest ever Billboard Boxscore gross for a comedian in North America from his weekend of sold out shows at Madison Square Garden earlier this year), Loni Love, Bert Kreischer, Anjelah Johnson; and a live division, which comprises twelve owned and operated comedy venues and restaurants across the US.
Leading the marketing department is Alexa Grey Williams, who has spent the last year “transitioning the network of live venues from traditional, and somewhat archaic promotional efforts to a spectrum of plans that focus on digital strategy—where the majority of tactics can be targeted and tracked. We not only see a greater return,” says Williams, “but we learn more about our fans along the way.”
Williams is a music-lover turned experience-maker. After college, she founded MANIFEST, a live art and music event series in Baltimore. “It was pretty renegade, but it exposed a major hole in our community,” Williams tells ToneDen, “I looked around and saw my friends, a tight knit collective of bohemians, creatives and aspiring performers, that were looking to express themselves and meet likeminded individuals. We decided to produce an event that provided the opportunities we were seeking. Our first attempt sold out, and sparked a movement that became our brainchild for the next four years. There was nothing like it in the city, so the concept took off immediately. And this was all organic, before you could even buy an ad on Facebook. It was my first exposure to the viral nature of social media. I was hooked.”
MANIFEST paved the way for her career in entertainment, moving on to run the marketing for The Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., then she joined Live Nation’s Club & Theater division in both Madison, Wisconsin and Atlanta, Georgia until July of last year, where she moved to Los Angeles to serve as the Director of Venue Marketing for Levity Live. “Levity has really allowed me to experiment with new ideas,” she says. “And the success that we’ve had so far with ToneDen is extremely promising."
“From the first time we tried out the platform, we have incorporated it into our best practices for every show.”
A Legacy of Levity
Born from New York City’s legendary Improvisation, Levity Live’s venues include comedy destinations in Southern California (Hollywood, Irvine, Brea, Oxnard, Ontario), Pittsburgh, Nyack, Raleigh and Milwaukee (scheduled to open March of 2020) with a lineup of comedians that spans decades: Richard Pryor, Billy Crystal, Lily Tomlin, Andy Kaufman, Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres, Jamie Foxx, Adam Sandler, Dave Chappelle, and many more.
That history lays the foundation for an exciting future, according to Williams. “The comedy world has seen a recent renaissance that isn’t slowing down any time soon. This category of the entertainment business benefits from all of the resources that are available now when it comes to social, content and influencer marketing”. Officially closing their first quarter using the service, ToneDen is one of those resources for Levity Live. Williams and her team went all in with the platform, adopting it across their entire network of live venues. “It was really a strategic decision that we made to see how consumers would react,” she says. “And the outcome was powerful. We focused on data. The numbers don’t lie. ToneDen has been a catalyst for me to continue to push the industry in a digital direction.”
Any change comes with a learning curve, but Williams sees “education as empowerment.” She also shouts out Mike Universal, her Promotions Manager for all venues, who fully embraced the tools within ToneDen to ensure smooth onboarding and training for the local marketers across the country. “ToneDen provides a way to alert our team on how their decisions are affecting revenue. When they started seeing the reporting from their ad buys, it helped motivate them to focus on results. They now see their hard work pay off.”
Dynamic Event Ads—Practically Designed for Comedy
The profit of that hard work has been especially encouraging since Levity Live began using ToneDen’s Dynamic Event Ads. DEAs — think of them as the automated version of those calendar ads that once hung out on flyers and bulletin boards — allow a venue to advertise an entire line-up of events, with a single ad campaign.
It turns out that Dynamic Event Ads and comedy go together like Laurel and Hardy, like Wayne and Garth, like Ferrell and Reilly. “There’s a lot of fluidity to programming in comedy that is very different,” Williams says. “It’s hard to apply a typical announce, pre-sale, on sale, maintenance, backend process. So to be able to use DEAs and put a substantial budget across our entire calendar, it allows us to not have to worry about turning things off and making a lot of last minute changes to the campaigns. To be able to save time and money, while having the ads do the work for us has been a game-changer.”
Two very distinct DEA campaigns yielded exciting results for Levity Live. The Pittsburgh Improv spent $177 on a DEA campaign in February and brought in more than $16,000 — a 92.7x return on ad spend.
The return for San Jose Improv was even better: a $27 investment yielded more than $4,500 — a 170x return on ad spend.
These numbers are like the best comedy — shocking in a good way. “We can carve out a portion of our budget per month,” Williams says, “so there’s always something in the works to drive sales as opposed to relying solely on specific show campaigns.”
An Investment in the Future
With another venue opening soon and the momentum of the comedy scene continuing, there’s a lot of excitement ahead for Levity Live. “[ToneDen] makes you eager to keep digging,” Williams says. “I’ve learned so much about our typical customer’s interests using the platform, which helps cater our offerings and promotions to each patron in the unique way they want to be marketed to. It brings to light missed opportunities and a lot of potential. There’s always more you can do.”
She encourages people to give ToneDen a shot, even if it seems like an investment. “I considered it almost a luxury,” she says. “But I saw so much of a return in the beginning that I’m glad that I didn’t put it off any longer.”