Sweet Dreams: How SmileDirectClub Turned Sleep Into a Daylong Stunt
The teledentistry company partnered with an improv group to promote its new aligners with a 10-hour activation in New York’s Grand Central Terminal.
Photo: Mark Von Holden/Getty Images for SmileDirectClub
NEW YORK—From flash mobs to live commercials, brands often turn to theatrical techniques to promote a new product or celebrate a campaign. SmileDirectClub staged a largely improvised performance that lasted an entire day.
To promote its new Nighttime Clear Aligners, the teledentistry company partnered with New York-based comedy collective Improv Everywhere to execute a 10-hour comedic performance inspired by sleep and dreams in Grand Central Terminal. The stunt, which was held in the transit hub’s Vanderbilt Hall on September 30, starred performers including Hamilton’s Jordan Fisher, the New York Gay Men’s Chorus, a group dressed as sheep—and even passersby.
Bruce Henderson, chief creative officer for SmileDirectClub, explained that the Nashville-based company has steadily explored experiential techniques to connect with existing and prospective customers since it launched as an e-commerce business in 2014; past physical efforts have included retail stores called SmileShops, CVS partnerships, and small activations at Southeastern Conference football games. Earlier in September, the brand held an activation in Times Square to celebrate the company going public. For the launch of the aligners, which are designed for customers to wear for 10 hours at night, SmileDirectClub saw an opportunity to produce its largest event to date.
“We thought it would be fun to dramatize trying to sleep peacefully in Grand Central Terminal, perhaps one of the busiest transportation hubs in the world,” Henderson said. “We had to figure out the run of the show, things we thought would be interesting and meaningful, and a basic template and story.”
SmileDirectClub’s in-house creative agency, which consists of 200 people, handled the design and build-out of the set, as well as production in partnership with Improv Everywhere. The story, which Henderson said was workshopped for a few months before the stunt, revolved around a “professional sleeper” named Melanie using the aligners.
Narrated by two news anchors, the story followed Melanie as she got into bed and was surrounded by performers including Fisher, who sang a reimagined version of Brahms' Lullaby; humans dressed as sheep who jumped on the bed; and the New York Gay Men’s Chorus, who sang an a cappella song about the aligners. The stunt also featured actors posing as “noise control officers” who “shush’d” passersby, and dreamlike projections on the ceiling of the venue. Some passersby were asked to tell a goodnight story to the sleeper.
“What was wonderful about the experience is that it reached commuters and tourists. We had thousands of people passing by throughout the day,” said Henderson. “With [the improv aspect], they got to become part of the story.”
While Henderson estimates the performance was witnessed by thousands of people, SmileDirectClub is measuring the success of the stunt through consumer interaction with a video capture of the event, which the brand recently posted on YouTube. The brand also promoted the stunt before, during, and after on social media channels including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Additionally, the brand created a dedicated landing page with the sizzle reel video.
Scroll down to see highlights from SmileDirectClub’s 10-hour performance in New York.