What Is a Dog and Pony Show?

A "dog and pony show" is a colloquial term that generally refers to a presentation or seminar to market new products or services to potential buyers. A dog and pony show, in the financial context, refers to presentations to institutional and retail investors by executives of a company that is issuing securities as an initial public offering (IPO) or on a secondary basis.

It also refers to presentations by financial institutions to pitch a new product or service. The term is believed to have originated in the late 19th century to describe traveling circuses that featured performing dogs and ponies and toured rural areas across the United States.

The term is also known as a "roadshow."

Key Takeaways

  • A "dog and pony show" is a colloquial term that generally refers to a presentation or seminar that markets new products or services to potential buyers.
  • In general, a "dog and pony show" has a negative connotation, referring to overly dramatic presentations that are not enjoyable to do but often necessary.
  • In the financial context, it refers to presentations to institutional and retail investors by a company that is issuing securities as an initial public offering (IPO) or on a secondary basis.
  • The term is thought to have its origins from the traveling circuses that featured performing dogs and ponies that toured rural areas across the United States.
  • Outside of a financial context, dog and pony shows exist in politics, the military, and the courtroom.
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What's a Dog and Pony Show?

Understanding a Dog and Pony Show

While the term dog and pony show has a negative connotation and may be used in a disparaging manner, it fulfills an important function in the capital markets. Known instead by the more respectable term “roadshow,” these presentations often give brokers, analysts, fund managers, and investors an opportunity to meet an issuer’s top management and assess their capabilities firsthand.

Dog and Pony Shows Today

Far from being held in decrepit and rundown facilities where the traditional dog and pony shows were often staged, modern-day roadshows are generally held in plush ballrooms of luxury hotels and may be attended by hundreds of people. Smaller meetings arranged by the underwriters are also held in private between the company’s management and select institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals.

The success or failure of an imminent security offering can often be gauged by the success of its dog and pony show. Roadshows by companies that have created a lot of buzz and where the security offering is highly anticipated, will be very well attended.

Such roadshows may span a couple of months and are held in numerous venues nationally; larger offerings are often marketed in major overseas financial centers as well. Conversely, a roadshow by a small company without much brand recognition may only be marketed regionally over a few days.

Depending on their scale and scope, dog and pony shows may cost a company a significant amount of money. However, given their importance as a vital tool for marketing securities, most companies will consider this money well spent.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Dog and Pony Show

The primary advantage of a dog and pony show is to raise awareness and generate interest in a product, service, or in the financial context, an IPO. If a company has a new product coming to market it wants to make sure that potential buyers are aware of it. Having a dog and pony show that reveals the product and its benefits to consumers is a great way to raise interest and make sales on the spot.

For companies looking to raise capital, via direct investments or through an IPO, a dog and pony show allows executives to present their business model, competitive edge, and sales forecasts, to potential institutional or retail investors. Being able to generate investment capital is critical for new businesses to continue operating.

If a dog and pony show, or roadshow, fails to drum up enough interest for an IPO, this could lead to an undersubscribed issue or a low price for the shares, reducing the potential amount of capital a company will raise.

Dog and pony shows, however, can be time-consuming and sometimes inefficient, if the audience is not chosen correctly. It takes a long time to prepare presentations and arguments to entice consumers and investors. If the preparation is poor then the outcome will likely be negative and a significant amount of time will have been wasted.

Similarly, if a blanket approach is done to entice as many individuals as possible, this might backfire, as no one party might find the product or service particularly applicable to themselves. Choosing the right audience and tailoring the dog and pony show to them is critical for success.

Pros
  • Raise product or company awareness

  • Generates interest in a product or company

  • Ability to make direct sales or raise capital

  • Creates opportunities for networking

Cons
  • Time-consuming

  • Inefficient if the audience is not chosen correctly

  • Costly

The Bottom Line

Dog and pony shows can be a great way to bring product or business awareness to a large audience in order to drum up sales and capital. It's important that a dog and pony show is prepared well and tailored to a specific audience to ensure that it is most effective in achieving its intended goals.

Dog and Pony Show FAQs

What Is an Example of a Dog and Pony Show in a Courtroom?

In the courtroom, a dog and pony show can refer to an over-staged or dramatic performance by the prosecution or defendant that is aimed to convince the jury of one opinion over another. It can use surprise witnesses, evidence, or other tactics that become a performance in order to make a very specific and strong point.

What Is an Example of a Dog and Pony Show in the Military?

In the military, a dog and pony show can refer to a military parade that shows off a company's military prowess. It consists of a presentation of weapons, planes, tanks, etc, to show the strength of a country's military. It can also refer to when weapons companies and governments want to make arms sales. They put on a dog and pony show of new weapons technology to impress buyers into making arms purchases.

What Is an Example of a Dog and Pony Show in Politics?

A dog and pony show in politics often refers to the questioning of a nominee to a specific political position. For example, when a new Supreme Court Justice is nominated, the Senate hearing that asks the nominee a multitude of questions to vet their credentials for taking on the job can be considered a dog and pony show.

How Can You Put On a Successful Dog and Pony Show?

Presentation is the key factor here. It is important to tell a story to an audience and engage them rather than read off of prepared slides or notecards. The more engaging you are, the more interested your audience will be. In addition, expressing why the product or service is important or will help the members of your audience will increase the likelihood of making a sale.

Making it about them—not you—is how to generate interest. Don't provide your audience with too much data as this tends to bore or confuse the audience. An overview with possibilities is a strong way to lead. Lastly, end with a call to action: outlining contacts, next steps, and what the customer needs from you for a follow-up.