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Classic Improv Game: Commercials

Advertisements and commercials can be entertaining, educational, heart wrenching, and hilarious. Ultimately though, the goal is to grab your attention, tell you about the product, and get you to part with your hard-earned cash in exchange for whatever they’re selling — as efficiently as possible.

In this improv game, students are tasked with improvising an advertisement for a product. It’s challenging because it’s an individual performance exercise, but it has clear parameters to follow, which can help students figure out what to do in the moment. Feel free to print out the requirements (found in the giveaway below) and post them so students know the structure they need to follow.


1. Pre-game prep: Ask your students to identify commercials or advertisements that they like or find memorable. You also may wish to have a selection of ad videos to show students. What makes the commercials memorable? What makes them effective (or ineffective) and why? If money were no object, would you buy that item based on the commercial?

2. Have students brainstorm a list of products to sell. Pretty much anything goes! Here are 10 ideas to get you started: toothpaste, pack of crayons, scuba wetsuit, garbage can, beard trimmer, twelve-pack of tube socks, lunchbox, ice skates, video game system, paper towels.

Try to avoid items with established brand names, or at least refer to them as their generic item name (for example, use the non-specific phrase “adhesive strip” or “bandage” instead of Band-Aid). 

3. Select a student to begin. Have them stand at the front of the room. Give that student a product to sell in an improvised commercial, or write the products on slips of paper and draw them out of a bag or hat.

4. The student must include the following information in their commercial:

  • An interesting opening statement (“Are your teeth gray and gross?” “If you love fly fishing, then I have the perfect product for you!” “BAM! Now that I have your attention…”)
  • A brand name for the product (Students can use an established brand if they like, or invent their own brand name.)
  • At least two features of the product (How it will benefit you, how it will make you happy, what it’s made of, quality of the material, ease of use, a bonus for purchasing, a jingle or catchphrase, etc.)
  • The price of the product
  • Where/how to buy it (In store, online, call now!)

Students may present their commercial in any tone they wish: sales-y, comedic, emotional, as a song and dance, as a celebrity endorsement, and so on.

There is no time limit, but students should attempt to be as efficient as possible in their delivery. Feel free to cut off students if you think they’re milking their stage time!

5. Once the student has improvised all the required information, they are done! Select a new student to perform. Continue until time runs out or everyone has performed. 

If your students are pros at the basic commercial improvisation, try these challenge modes!

  • Challenge 1: Students have to complete all the requirements in one minute or less.
  • Challenge 2: Students have to complete all the requirements in 30 seconds or less (without rushing).
  • Challenge 3: Students have to keep selling until you “change the channel” (infomercial style). Even if they’ve completed all the requirements, they have to keep going until you say, “CLICK!”
  • Challenge 4: “Change the channel” between three students. Have three students stand at the front of the room. Assign each student a channel number. Channel 1 begins their commercial. When you say “CLICK!” they must freeze and then Channel 2 will begin their commercial. Repeat with Channel 3. Once Channel 3 gets “clicked,” the game will go back to Channel 1, who must pick up wherever they were paused. Continue until each channel completes their commercial.
  • Challenge 5: Add an adjective to each product. For example: vintage lunchbox, glitter toothpaste, waterproof ice skates, glow-in-the-dark beard trimmer, stinky garbage can. Students must include the adjective as one of the selling features for the item, regardless of whether or not they think the adjective is a positive or negative one.

Click here for a requirements printout and rubric.
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