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Advertising on Television Teen Dance SHows

by Matt Delmont

When ABC decided to take Bandstand national in 1957, dozens of local markets already had or would soon start their own teen dance shows.  Like Bandstand, programs like The Milt Grant Show in Washington D.C., The Buddy Deane Show in Baltimore, High Time in Portland (OR), The Clay Cole Show in New York, Dewey Phillips’ Pop Show in Memphis, Clark Race’s Dance Party in Pittsburgh, Robin Seymour and Bill Davies’ Dance Party in Detroit, Phil McClean’s Cleveland Bandstand, Jim Gallant’s Connecticut Bandstand, and David Hull’s Chicago Bandstand, cost little to produce and provided their stations an opportunity to capitalize of the profitable teenage demographic.  A sales pitch for The Milt Grant Show highlights the commercial appeal of these locally televised teen dance shows.  Speaking directly to the camera, Grant addresses potential sponsors:


Gentleman, I’m about to offer you the best television buy in the world.  I’m Milt Grant, the producer and emcee of The Milt Grant Show and record hop here in Washington…we have a winner that can win for you and your client…you see the ingredients are sure fire.  First of all, we have the top records of our day. Then we have big named stars…and we have a studio audience of seventy sampling for your clients’ products.  Some of our clients are Motorola, Pepsi-Cola, [and] the Music Box store…our commercials are thoroughly integrated with the program content.  We have a winner and its growing…Gentleman, here is the combination of sales, showmanship, audience, and price that makes the Milt Grant Show the best television buy in the world.


While clearly hyperbolic, Grant’s pitch is indicative of how local deejays and television stations sold their dance shows to potential sponsors.  To distinguish itself from these local programs, every aspect of American Bandstand, from the show’s title, introduction and set design, to Dick Clark’s banter before playing records, provided advertisers, record producers, and viewers with evidence of the program’s national reach.  For fans of the locally produced Bandstand, the most obvious change when ABC started broadcasting the program nationally was the title, American Bandstand.  (The show continued to use both names while it broadcast from Philadelphia, using American Bandstand for the national ninety minutes, and Bandstand for the opening and closing thirty-minute segments that were only broadcast locally).  By calling the show American Bandstand, the program’s producers offered both an accurate acknowledgement of the affiliates broadcasting the program, and an ambitious evaluation of the national audience they hoped would tune in.  For viewers in other parts of the country, many of whom were already familiar with their own locally broadcast dance shows, the title immediately announced American Bandstand as the national offering.

Milt Grant - Pitch to Sponsors

The Milt Grant Show was a televised teen dance show that broadcast locally in Washington D.C. from 1956 to 1961. This clip was sent to potential advertisers for the show and emphasizes the program's lucrative audience of consumers. There were over fifty of these teen dance shows in the late-1950s, the most famous of which was the nationally televised American Bandstand. This clip provides a good example of how these teen dance shows sought to recruit advertisers.

from Milt Grant Show (1957)
Creator: Milt Grant
Posted by Matt Delmont