Campaign for comedy improv chain highlights how to harness FOMO in marketing

A new campaign for The Improv comedy club chain by Here Be Dragons has a lesson to teach anyone who works in advertising.

We all know that FOMO ('Fear of Missing Out') is a powerful psychological motivator. For example, we've all seen three-year-olds show no interest in a toy until another child starts playing with it. And we've all wriggled out of a big night out, only to regret it the next day when everyone shares the pics on Facebook and declares it the 'best night ever'.

So it's strange, really, that creatives don't make more use of FOMO in their advertising campaigns. If you're wondering what that might look like, here's an example.

Developed and executed by independent San Francisco creative agency Here Be Dragons, this national campaign aims to promote The Improv, a comedy club chain with a 60-year history.

It's not subtle: the ads basically show people who've had an amazing night out at the club trying to explain it to people who didn't go. They don't get very far because they keep creasing over with laughter, and the non-attendees are left clueless. Then comes the simple tagline: "Shoulda been there". You can watch both ads in full below:

Why it works

It's a potentially risky plotline because the people who went to the comedy night are, frankly, quite annoying. But ultimately, it succeeds in reminding people that a night of live entertainment is a million times more enjoyable than staying at home and watching bad TV – especially if they see this commercial while doing exactly that.

It also works because The Improv is already a well-established brand. A succession of iconic names from Richard Pryor, Billy Crystal and Lily Tomlin, through to Adam Sandler, Jeff Dunham and Dave Chappelle, have come up through this network, which currently operates 23 locations across the USA. So, the ad doesn't need to convince anyone that the product is good and, instead, wisely focuses on simply getting bums on seats.

"The Improv Comedy Club has long been the industry's standard-bearing brand, and this campaign was created to build on and celebrate that," adds Eric Dunn, executive director at Here Be Dragons. "We zeroed in on a simple human truth and built an idea that tapped into the joy of a good laugh. We think 'Shoulda' Been There' will help The Improv clubs around the country inspire anyone who needs to share a good 'in the moment' laugh with others right now."

"The campaign's creative direction taps into the emotions of FOMO by intentionally not letting the viewer in on the joke," says Ken Hall, executive creative director at Here Be Dragons. "Only pieces are retold by those lucky enough to be there. Because the only thing worse than the fear of missing out is hearing about the great time you could've had from those who didn't."

Creative team

Here Be Dragons recruited an accomplished integrated production team to bring the new campaign to life in a way that balanced a feeling of realness with the sense of heightened reality that comes from any great comedy show.

Celebrity photographer Andrew Eccles was tasked with capturing the essence of the brand during a photo shoot on location at the legendary Hollywood Improv. And comedy director Jeremy Nachbar, whose relatable storytelling and training at Second City in Chicago was key to capturing performances from the acting team, was tasked with the TV and video components.

Here Be Dragons was selected this Spring to guide brand strategy and creative for The Improv's first fully integrated brand campaign, which runs across streaming TV platforms, digital billboards, audio platforms, digital display, and paid social through 15 December.

The ads are being shown on platforms including Hulu, Peacock and YouTube TV and across networks including A&E, Discovery, ABC, ESPN and Fox. There are also audio runs on Spotify and iHeartRadio, outdoor advertising in 21 markets, including Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Denver, and the Bay Area, and digital placements across sites including ESPN, CNN, Rolling Stone, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

"We couldn't be more excited to launch our first brand campaign with a simple but compelling idea that we think will resonate with everyone," says Robert Barbieri, VP of brand strategy and marketing at The Improv. "The Here Be Dragon's team pinpointed the precise emotional insight that laughter heals so much of what ails us as humans and created a campaign to remind us all that the best laughs are had in the presence of others."


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