Promoting a show at the Edinburgh Fringe

As the spotlight swings towards the Scottish capital, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is ready to take centre stage once more. A month-long marathon of laughter and creativity, the Fringe is famed for being the largest arts festival in the world, providing a platform for performers of all stripes. Yet, amidst the digital age, one tradition stands firm, the use of Flyers and Posters to promote shows and performances.

Edinburgh’s cityscape transforms into a canvas of colour during the Fringe, adorned with an array of captivating Flyers and Posters. Performers, whether experienced veterans or starry-eyed newcomers, take to the streets, armed with stacks of freshly printed Flyers and a sense of anticipation that’s infectious. This tradition isn’t just a marketing tactic, it’s a symbol of the festival’s spirit – creative, dynamic and personal.

Sameer Katz shares his Edinburgh experience

We recently sat down with Sameer Katz, a seasoned stand-up hailing from Orange County, California, who will be returning to the Fringe for his seventh year. Known for his razor-sharp wit and unique perspectives, Katz brings a fresh offering, “Love Is A Lie”, to this year’s Fringe.

We had the pleasure of talking to Sameer about his experiences promoting his Edinburgh shows. Here’s how our conversation unfolded:

Can you describe the process of creating a unique and catchy show title and a compelling show description?

“Every January, long before I even think about the Fringe, I get an email saying it’s time to submit your Fringe show. So every January, I freak out. “What am I going to do this year?!” After days of this, I settle on a title that’s vague enough that I can turn into anything. This year it’s, “Love is a Lie.” While it may sound like my show is about how jaded I am with love in all its forms, it could also be about how founding member of The Beach Boys, Mike Love, was a pathological liar. (I have no idea if he was a liar. Please don’t sue me Mr. Love.)

Show descriptions are tough. It’s easy for punters to get overwhelmed flipping through the Fringe Programme or the Fringe App so you really need to stand out. Quoting reviews really helps cut through the noise but you also need a funny and pithy way to describe your show. When I know what my show is about, I come up with a short premise that’s filled with jokes. I try to thread the needle between relatable and unique.”

How effective was the use of printed materials (like Flyers or Posters) in attracting audiences? Can you share any specific strategies you used to distribute these printed materials?

“Flyers and Posters are somehow essential and pointless at the same time. People see the Poster or the Flyer and think, “That looks good,” and come to the show. Most people also ignore me when I flyer; of the people that do take a Flyer, the majority just bin it. And yet, most of the people in my shows are there because I flyered them. None of it makes sense but that’s how it works.

I put up Posters, with the help of the Free Festival volunteers, around town and in venues days before the Fringe. Then I flyer as much as I can every day. This is the toughest part of the festival: the hours spent peddling my wares to a mostly uninterested crowd.

Remembering it isn’t personal is key; there is a lot going on at the Fringe and not everyone wants to see my show. I’ve had the most success flyering an hour before my show and also exit flyering similar shows. It’s important to know who your audience is and target them.”

What’s the role of eye-catching visuals and graphics in promoting your show?

“You gotta have a good looking Poster and Flyer. That’s all true, take-a-chance punters have to go off. One year my Poster was me in a tree. Lots of people came just based on that picture. Posters with stars from reviews also stand out. People want to know their time will be well spent and stars and laurels deliver that message.

Paying an expert graphic designer helps with this too; professional Posters indicate you are successful and if you’re successful, you must be funny.”

Can you share a story where an unexpected promotional strategy worked in your favour?

Flyering at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival“As a Californian, the Scottish summer is very cold to me so I’m often flyering in a soft-shelled jacket. I wear more layers than Edmund Hillary did climbing Everest. The advantage of my Inuit attire is that I have a lot of pockets to hide my Flyers. I usually only hold one at a time.

A guy once took a Flyer, thinking it was an act of mercy to take my last one. He was a noble knight setting me free from the tyranny of the Flyer, when really I had dozens more in my pockets. Since then, I regularly take advantage of people’s compassion and let them think they are ending my misery, only to turn around and pull out another one.”

How have you used social media and online platforms (like podcasts, YouTube, blogs) to boost the visibility of your show?

“The internet is, annoyingly, so important. People plan their Fringe around shows from performers they’ve seen on social media or heard on podcasts. I’m on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube but deep down, I’m not built for this modern era. That’s why I’m doing a blog post. Take me back to the days of tumblr and dial-up. I’m even writing a novel! That’s right, that thing that’s like a really, really long TikTok video but on paper. Also please follow me on everything.”

What advice would you give to a comedian who is planning to promote their show at the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time?

Crowds at the Edinburgh Fringe

“Be famous. If you aren’t famous, be rich and pay for PR to make people think you’re famous. Outside of that, getting your name out there online is really the best thing you can do. Specifically, blitz social media, interview with media companies, and send press releases to reviewers.

When it comes to the day to day and flyering, engaging with people is much more effective than rote hand-outs. It’s better to hand out less Flyers to people you connect with than just passing them out to people who aren’t interested.”

Beyond the fringe…

As we move closer to the spectacle of the Fringe, the tradition of Flyers and Posters remains a colourful testament to the festival’s lively spirit. These tangible mementos continue to engage, attract and inspire audiences. And while the festival is unique, the impact of well-crafted print materials is universal. Whether you’re promoting a comedy show or your latest business venture, the power of a carefully designed Flyer or Poster is undeniable.

If you’re in Edinburgh this season, don’t miss out on Sameer Katz’s “Love Is A Lie”, performing at the Doon The Stair Comedy Club at 32 Below, 32b W Nicolson Street.