By Jeffrey Hedquist
Here are two improv games that can give us useful formats for commercials. “Worse Off” is a version of the “When I was your age…” stories older members of your family would recite. In this game, each character tries to elicit sympathy or admiration from the others by exaggerating reminiscences of how much worse they had it.
A classic example of this is Monty Python’s “Four Yorkshiremen.” Listen to it or read the script – readily available on the web.
For commercials you could develop a scenario with a dad or grandpa who starts one of those stories while a relative from a younger generation constantly interrupts with advertiser benefits which eliminate having to endure the pain or trouble of those more primitive times. The older person finally sees the light, and then delivers a zinger to the younger one.
Or, reverse the roles where the kid complains about how hard his or her life is and the older person shows how easy it can be by using what the advertiser offers. This would work especially well for technology advertisers, or with a product which has been around for generations which the kid doesn’t know about.
“Better Off” is a game of one-upmanship. Your spot could be populated with friends, neighbors, relatives or co-workers – any group whose interactions could generate conflict. One or more participants try to outdo the others with real or exaggerated claims of proficiency, intelligence, specialized skill, strength, agility, wealth, beauty, accumulation, or any of a number of other qualities enhanced by what the advertiser offers.
It can be quite humorous when the actors attempt to be subtle and work their one-upmanship into normal conversation.
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