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Does your brand get the joke?

Humour is a powerful tool in the advertising arsenal. Research has proven it time and again: humour in ads improves brand likeability and recall and the likelihood that people will fork out for your product.

A laugh or smile instantly gives a customer an emotional connection to your brand. When you can build that positive association, you’re improving your brand’s success.

So why aren’t brands making ads like they used to?

Many brands are shying away from humour because they’re scared of getting it wrong. But we know audiences want laughs as much as they ever did – just think of the hype around the annual Superbowl Commercials. Worldwide anticipation from people who aren’t even sports fans, tuning in just for ads.

Whether it’s POS, OOH or TVC, audiences love ads that entertain.

We’ve all told a joke that didn’t land – but there are a few simple tips to keep in mind if you want to create ads and campaigns that hit your audience right in the funnybone (ouch).

We look at a few things to keep in mind before you hit the joke button.

Old Spice

Tie it back to brand promise

Ultimately, you’re here to sell a product or service. If that’s not the point of your humour, you’ve kind of missed the punchline.

This is done with precision and elegance by Specsavers. Not only does the scenario-based advertising show the value of eyecare (in comically exaggerated situations), those ads brought the wry little “Should’ve gone to Specsavers” into everyday speech.

Ha! Should’ve gone to Specsavers, mate.

It’s an irreverence towards eyecare and eyewear that they’ve been able to extend to OOH advertising.

By now, we all know the gag, so the billboard is easy shorthand. And the message is still clear – if you can see it.


Be genuinely funny

Sounds like a no-brainer, but how do you make sure what you’re saying is funny outside of the boardroom?

Well, you’ve got to think how the customer thinks. There are four types of humour you can approach as a brand: affiliative (humour that connects or builds on shared experience), aggressive (big bold jokes, think Lynx ads), self-aggrandising (self-explanatory) and good old self-deprecating – turning the joke on yourself.

Know your market

Who’s buying your product? What connects them? What will be familiar and relatable? Ideally you already know this, if you’re trying to sell them anything at all.

When you really know the target audience and what they find funny, you can afford to get a bit risky in your humour.

When Whippet created the Total Tools social persona – Thommo – we were reaching out to the Total Tools social media audience with a voice they’d find familiar. The guy cracking jokes on the building site or down the pub after knock-off.

He uses slang, he swears, keeps it casual and doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s someone they identify with. And because social ads can target the demographic, we could take a chance on some gutsy, challenging humour. Because we know these blokes, and we’ve got a fair idea of what’ll land.

The great thing about social? It’s the perfect channel to test your brand’s humour with the target audience. You can see what floats and what sinks, in a cost-effective way, before building out the advertising campaign into ATL channels, like TV, radio and OOH.

Make the connection

If you want people to laugh, you have to connect with them. Drawing on a shared experience makes your humour relatable. It can be as small as a familiar everyday scenario, a shared anxiety or joking reference to a hot topic or pop culture trend.

After lockdown, everyone was yearning for connection – but worried we’d forgotten how to do it. Mars Wrigley’s Extra gum ‘Get Your Ding Back’ campaign tapped into our fear of having lost social skills with a viral ad, OOH advertising and innovative digital approach.

The For When It’s Time ad showed people emerging from their messy, unshowered lockdown mode, meeting each other, going outside, touching sunlight… and making out. The last, with the help of an Extra Gum refresher.

They followed up with a tongue-in-cheek simulation game that allowed users to run through scenarios of post-lockdown life, point-and-click style, to help them get “back to normal.”

After over a year of germ-phobia and isolation, it’s just the laugh people needed.

Wrigley's Extra


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