play in peoria

Will it play in Peoria?

The saying, "Will it play in Peoria?" is traditionally used to ask whether a given product, person, promotional theme or event will appeal to mainstream (also called "Main Street") America, or across a broad range of demographic/psychographic groups. The phrase originated during the vaudeville era and was popularized in movies by Groucho Marx. The belief was that if a new show was successful in Peoria, a main Midwestern stop for vaudeville acts, it would be successful anywhere. The phrase subsequently was adopted by politicians, pollsters and promoters to question the potential mainstream acceptance of anything new.

According to William Safire, President Nixon’s administration perpetuated the phrase: John Ehrlichman was heard using it when talking about campaigning in the Midwest.

In the United States, Peoria, Illinois, has legendary status as a test market. Peoria has long been seen as a representation of the average American city, because of its demographics and its perceived mainstream Midwestern culture. In the 1960s and 1970s, Peoria was deemed an ideal test market by various consumer-focused companies, entertainment enterprises (films and concert tours), even politicians, to gauge opinion, interest and receptivity to new products, services and campaigns.

In the 1980s, comedians like Sam Kinison and musicians such as Bob Dylan, Robert Plant and Phil Collins each perfected and launched concert tours in Peoria. During Presidential campaigns, major TV networks would visit Peoria to 'take the pulse' (gauge the response) of everyday Americans on national issues and candidates.

Peoria's historical test market status can be attributed to a number of factors. At one time Peoria was at the country's population center (a point which has since moved South and West, as more Americans move away from the Northeast to the Southwest). The term 'Heartland of America' refers to this region, though over the years the moniker has been embraced by other markets as well.

The city is also located approximately halfway between two major Midwestern cities, (Chicago, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri).

Perhaps most important, at one time Peoria closely reflected the diversity of the United States population in terms of race, income, age, rural and business interests, educational background and other key criteria.

While Peoria is still considered the "test market capital of the world", other cities such as Albany, New York; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Santa Barbara, California, are more commonly selected as test markets today for greater testing precision.

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