No better time than post-Super Bowl to discuss ads that are hilarious, talked-about, but that no one can remember who they’re for. A total waste of money, right?! Agency-driven award-show fodder?! Maybe not…
Sometimes the gag of a funny spot relates the product feature/benefit (Tide’s talking stain). Other times, it doesn’t (VW Darth Vader). When it doesn’t, all you get is brand support. But how does a funny spot support a brand when you can’t remember the brand?
I think Bill Cosby is funny. I doubt I could remember any specific joke of his I’ve heard, and if you put one of his jokes in front of me, I doubt I’d be able to tell you it was his. The important thing is I knew it was Bill Cosby telling the joke at the time I heard each one. That created the association Bill Cosby=funny.
Same goes for advertising. I saw the VW Darth Vader spot and saw it was from VW. The association was made, and then consciously forgotten. Me not remembering the advertiser two weeks later doesn’t negate the effect.
Does a brand being seen as funny actually help it grow and sell itself? There are few brands that would count ‘funny’ among their core personality traits. David Ogilvy famously said, “People don’t buy from clowns.” Well, a clown is always trying to be funny, and most advertisers with funny ads don’t only run funny ads. Can we not say funny is a trait that makes a brand more likeable, which in time leads to a preference? That’s the way it works with people, isn’t it?