3 obstacles to making a laugh-out-loud-funny ad

4 Jan

One of the simplest formulas for creating advertising that people respond positively to is to make it likeable. I learned that from working with Brits.

It may seem like a Kraft Dinner philosophy. But it actually works.

Ad agency people have always prided themselves on delivering clever solutions. But cleverness only produces wry smirks and begrudging acknowledgements. Funny is where it’s at.

Genuinely funny ads – and there’s one at the bottom of this post – get people talking and sharing. We associate funny ads with good-hearted brands. That is, as long as the brand itself is relevant to the spot and intelligently integrated into it. We all know those funny spots from the company we can’t remember.

As I see it, there are three main obstacles to overcome if you want to get people laughing at an ad.

>  One is that humour is not universal. A funny ad to you will produce looks of consternation or outrage from, say, Agnes Macdonald, 78, of Comox Valley. You really have to know your audience well to lob a joke out there as an advertisement.

>  A second obstacle is that most funny ads fall flat. Just like most jokes. There are a lot of things that can go awry – and do – between conception and realization.

> The third is that scripted humour can never match spontaneous laughs. Even when well done.

To buttress this last point, here is my idea of a funny TV ad (an installment from the classic Hamlet Cigar campaign out of the UK.) followed by a YouTube clip found through searching randomly for “funniest videos”.

Watch the Hamlet Cigar commercial here.

Watch the random funny video here.

If you can find a funnier ad or video, please whack the links in the comments section.


15 Responses to “3 obstacles to making a laugh-out-loud-funny ad”

  1. Shane January 4, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    Good advertising and good comedy work under similar mechanics – being unexpected and relatable. No wonder they make such good bedfellows.

  2. Jody Beck January 4, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    hardy har har. Nice smoking ad.

  3. dougbrowncreative January 4, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    > Comedy has the improv fallback though eh Shane? There’s really nowhere to go if your ad falls face down.

    > Hey JB, glad to get a snortle out of you on your first day back!

  4. andmerson January 4, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Here is a funny advertisement that comes to mind

    Kid Tantrum:

    And another not advertisement but funny video while we are at it.

    Animal Crackers:

  5. dougbrowncreative January 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    Andrea I actually watched the supermarket tantrum but didn’t find it funny and carried on. LOVED the animal one, the farting gorilla and so on!

  6. andmerson January 4, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    Humour I hear is not universal.

    I get a little chuckle every time i watch it. Not funny you think because you actually have a child?

  7. Jack January 4, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    That Hamlet commercial is still as inspirational as it was in my internship days 😀

  8. dougbrowncreative January 4, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    > Andrea, you might be on to something!

    > Jack, now THAT is funny! haha!

  9. mike fromowitz January 5, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    The Brits know how to, and are best at writing humour.
    American’s write slap-stick humour (good for a laugh but the stuff doesn’t last long).

  10. dougbrowncreative January 5, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    > Rantyyj – funny how an annoying ad popped up when I was reading that!

    > Mike, you are dead right. I’m sure you remember that Hamlet campaign. Whatever happened to campaigns anyway…

  11. lindsmaloney January 6, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Agnes from the Comox Valley?! Are you talking about MY mother? If so, she’s not quite 78 yet.

  12. lindsmaloney January 6, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    ohhh Andrea, that Animal Crackers ad is pure genius.

    Helen! Helen!

  13. dougbrowncreative January 6, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    She just LOOKS 78. 🙂

  14. lindsmaloney January 7, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    them’s fighting words. ha!

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