- "Audience, we need your help. If you're ready, on your keypads, using A, B, C, or D, vote now!" - Regis Philbin
- "Ok, Audience, let's try and help (Contestant's name) get up to (Question amount). The question is (Reads question). Now A on your keypads is (Answer A), B is (B), C is (C), and D is (D). All vote... Now!" - Chris Tarrant
Ask the Audience is a lifeline in the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? game. When a contestant uses this lifeline, usually the host will re-read the question and the 4 possible answers (two if a 50:50 was previously used), and then the audience members will answer the question using an electronic keypad provided by the show with buttons A, B, C, and D.
After 20 seconds (usually edited out in many versions), a graph displaying the percentage of people who voted for each answer is shown in the contestant and host's monitor. After a brief read over of the results by the host, the contestant can choose to go with the audience or not, and if to use another lifeline.
This lifeline is notorious for its accuracy; even Regis Philbin once stated that the Audience is right 95% of the time.
The Ask The Audience lifeline was one of the original three lifelines on the show, when it first aired in the UK on September 4th, 1998. The UK version used it for its entirety, and all versions of the U.S. show have used it to this day. Its look has changed over the years, but its usage has remained exactly the same.
Most versions of the show have used Ask the Audience at least once in their runs. Some versions have discarded it for different reasons, including, in some versions, the audience often deliberately giving a wrong answer to the contestant, making them lose.
From 2004-2006 on the syndicated U.S. version, the question was also asked through AOL Instant Messenger to those who had signed up to answer questions for this lifeline and add the username "MillionaireIM" to their buddylist. The contestant saw the studio-audience and AOL responses displayed separately. The AOL tie-in was discontinued beginning with the 2006-2007 season.
In the US and UK clocked formats, when the contestant chose to use the lifeline, the clocked would be stopped. Once the results were in, the host would give a brief read over of the results, and then the clock would start again.
In some special episodes of the UK version, the lifeline was renamed "Ask the Nation". Whenever it was used, the studio audience would first respond, as per usual, but then Chris Tarrant would read out 4 phone numbers, and members of the public would ring that particular line for whichever answer they thought was correct. A slightly longer-than-usual break was taken, and the results were counted, before being shown to the audience. On these episodes, the percentages were much closer together than usual because of the vastly greater voting numbers.
In the US Syndicated version, an AOL vote was introduced for two seasons, as mentioned above.
There are variations of the Ask the Audience lifeline used in some versions of the show, some as stand-alone lifelines, and some as replacements for it. These include:
- Ask One of the Audience: Used in the German version when a contestant plays in Risk Mode (known as 'Zusatzjoker'), and in the Costa Rican version, where it is unlocked after reaching the first milestone (known as 'El Público Habla') . When used, audience members who think they know the answer stand up, and the contestant must pick one of them by looks only, and then discuss with him/her about the question. He may or may not choose any answer after that. If he chooses the suggested answer and it proves to be correct, the audience member will also receive a prize of €500.
- Three of the Audience: Used on the Chilean version in 2007 (known as 'Tres del Público'), on the Vietnamese version (but instead of standing up, the audience members raise their hand), and on the Finnish version since 2016 (known as 'Kysy yleisöltä', 'Ask the audience'). It has the same functionality as Ask One of the Audience, but instead of the contestant picking one person, he gets to pick three.
- People Speak: Used on the Philippine version version since 2011, it has the same functionality as Three of the Audience, but the audience members who are correct will receive a share of a prize of P20,000. It replaced the Ask the Audience lifeline.
The graphic for the lifeline has changed several times over the show's run. It was originally black with a blue rim, with the main part showing 3 members of the audience standing shoulder to shoulder. The "person" graphic was carried over into other lifelines, such as "Ask One of the Audience" and in the UK 2014 game, "Ask the Saviour".
In the classic version of the show, when the lifeline was being used, the graphic changed colour, with the rim becoming white, the background orange, and the people's outline were black. Once used, a large red "X" was placed over the original state of the lifeline to represent that it had already been used.
In the UK 2007 update to the show, the 'people' on the lifeline remained present on the graphic, the rim changed to white, and the background a blue gradient. It is unsure if a 'in use' graphic was created, but the used graphic, like the classic version, was the normal graphic with a large red 'X'.
For the clocked format in the U.S., the graphic undertook a large change. Like the other lifeline graphics from the clocked version, they now were a gradient blue circle. The symbol on the lifeline was 3 people stood shoulder to shoulder, but they now had a more distinct 'body', rather than just pentagonal bodies. When used, the lifeline was dimmed.
When the U.S. show entered it's Shuffle format in 2010, the lifelines changed again. Having a similar background to that of it's clocked predecessor, the 'people' graphic now has 5 people, 3 at the front, 2 at the back. The same icon was used during the format change of Season 14.
During live "The People Play" UK episodes in 2012, when the show returned to members of the public playing for £1,000,000 rather than celebrities for three episodes, there was an error in the studio which resulted in all four percentages being displayed as 0%. This sometimes happened in pre-recorded episodes, but was always edited out. Chris Tarrant then asked the audience to hold up coloured voting cards to represent their vote.
- Once, involving a question about Parmesan cheese packaging, the contestant chose to ask the audience, and the results showed 100% going for D. This was the correct answer.
- A 100% also appeared on UK twice, on Scott Rourke's £1,000 question on September 27, 2003 and on Thomas Lees's £4,000 question on February 25, 2006.
- A 100% also appeared on Vietnam, on Trần Văn Tiền's ₫200,000 question on April 26, 2016.
- A 100% also appeared on Russia, on Era Kann and Mikhail Ozerov's 50,000 ruble question on December 26, 2015.
- During David Goodman's Million Dollar Question, 1% of the audience voted for C. despite this option being previously eliminated by the 50:50.
- This also occurred during Jason Alexander's $500,000 question when 4% said B. and 1% said D.
- The audience once had a 50/50 split between two answers, both getting 50% of the vote. (The other two answers had been eliminated by 50:50)
- On occasion, when a contestant chooses to ask the audience, a high percentage of them would vote for an incorrect answer by accident and the contestant would go with them, thus getting eliminated from the game.
- In the U.S., the highest percentage that occurred was when a contestant was asked about what the M in "RMS Titanic" stood for. 91% voted for B: Monarch, but the correct answer was C: Mail, which only 2% voted for.
- This also happened in U.K. for Gill O'Donnell when 81% of the audience voted for C: State opening as the only occasion when alcohol is allowed in the British House of Commons. The other 19% voted for the correct answer: B: Budget speech.
- Before that, it happened for Suzanne Barton & Tom Lynch when 80% (1% lower than the one before) of the audience voted for C: Stagecoach as what does a postilion ride. But, the correct answer was D: Horse, which only 3% voted for.
- This also happened in Nigeria for Chukwuma Eze when 83% of the audience voted for B: New York Yankees as to who won the 2003 World Series. The other 17% went with D: Texas Rangers. Strangely, the correct answer was C: Florida Marlins where no one went with.
- On even fewer occasions, the audience would be split between two choices, both of which turn out to be incorrect.
- Contestant Steve Perry was asked in the TV series "The Brady Bunch", what is Carol Brady's maiden name?. The audience were split between Martin (%33) and Nelson (%34), but then used the 50:50 and eliminated both Martin and Nelson, after using Phone a Friend as well, Steve decided to walk away with $500,000. The correct answer is Tyler, which 14% of the audience went with.
- Contestant Kelly was asked about which conflict the Robert Capa photo "Falling Soldier" was taken during. The audience were split between 40% B: Korean War and 41% D: World War I. She decided to Double Dip, going first for D, then B, but the 16% who voted for A: Spanish Civil War were actually correct.
- On January 10, 2017, contestant Joe Taglic faced a question asking what invention has been called "the most important event in recent human evolution." 48% each voted for A: Typewriter and D: Phonograph. However, neither were right. The correct answer was B: Bicycle, which only 1% of the audience voted for. This was one of the lowest percentages to be correct.
- In Russia on April 1, 2017, Dušan Perović and Yekaterina Andreyeva were asked what is a reaper, B: hat & C: disease are both 39%, which there both wrong. However, they went for D: furnace, which 20% of the audience voted for, unfortunately that is wrong, too. The correct answer is A: cropper, which is only 2%, also one of the lowest percentages to be correct.
- Contestant Gerry Lennon was asked on his £250,000 what is a 'bichon frisé? and he decided ask the audience. They gave 93% for A: Dog, which is one of the highest percentages for an answer. But, Gerry couldn't go for it and after using 50:50 and Phone a Friend as well, he decides to take £125,000. The answer was A: Dog.
LINK - YouTube playlist of Ask the Audience failures.