Advertising is fun so have fun with your advertising...Right?
Yes, humor in advertising is risky. It can also be devastatingly effective. When done right, humor works – really, really, really well! Advertising is about getting attention. The best ways to get quick attention with advertising are with strong visuals, sex, compassion, powerful headlines, and humor. Let’s look at how to use [or not use] humor in advertising.
Advertising humor is wonderful for getting attention. As you look back at super bowl ads or music awards etc. Advertising humor can be extraordinarily effective when it is used correctly. People will actually look for your ads, and talk about them if they are good. But there are rules about using humor in advertising to represent your company, and following them is probably a good idea. Really follow them.
First, people like funny things. They relax and pay attention when they know you have a sense of humor. It puts them in a good mood, and it creates a more comfortable atmosphere and a more positive image for your company. It makes you easy to approach, and easy to remember. Advertising humor works best with established and commonly purchased products. Humor in advertising works for business services, familiar items, and products we all know. But corporate image and industrial advertising are serious business. Unknown, risky, expensive, or sensitive products are not normally suited to the lighter touch of advertising humor.
Advertising humor also needs to be well suited to its audience. If your customers don’t get the joke, then the joke will be on you. A sophisticated audience will understand your irony, satire, and puns, but a young audience may only understand slapstick comedy or a silly cartoon caricature. Inside jokes can be effective if the recipient understands that it was done for them, but nobody else will get it.
Advertising humor can backfire. If you make a joke at the expense of any one group, you will surely alienate them. Everyone loved the “Where’s the Beef” commercials done by Wendy’s – everyone, that is, except the senior citizens who did not like being portrayed as grumpy old people. Advertising humor also needs to be product specific. We have all seen funny ads we liked so much that we forgot what was being sold. Advertising humor must relate directly to your business or products if you want to be remembered.
Advertising humor has a relatively short life. The first time we see it we may laugh out loud. But after a while, although we still may smile at the joke, it’s not so funny any more. Funny ads need to be replaced periodically. Will advertising humor work in your ads? Absolutely – if you can make it appropriate to your products and customers, if they understand it, if it is related to your business or message, and if you change your ads frequently enough so that they don’t wear out.
OK, here’s the punch line. Advertising humor definitely gets attention. If your ads don’t get attention first, they will be anything but funny. But when done right, advertising humor can send your ads light years ahead of the competition, and that’s what it’s all about.
As always, we strongly recommend that you ask a marketing professional to review your advertisement copy and any other marketing related concerns or projects you have. It really is a cheap investment for something as important as gaining insight into who you may insult with your humorous advertisements.
Good luck, stay sharp and keep it funny!