Puns are the lowest form of ad life

3 May

Puns make me cringe. I think puns lead to less effective advertising, because:

Great ads are based on an idea, or insight. Puns are a fluke, the result of a coincidence of language.
Every pun has been done before. Every single one. Nothing original about them.
Puns are self-conscious. They play on words, so they draw attention to the language of the ad, rather than drawing the reader into the idea behind it.
Puns are un-ownable. Because puns are language referencing itself, they do not stake out a unique place in concept or emotion that differentiate a brand. Anyone can make a pun.
Puns do not win awards. Punny ads do not get recognized by senior industry members as excellence in modern-day advertising.

That said, while puns might be the lowest form of ad life, I’d still rather see a punny headline on a sandwich board than one that says SALE!!!!

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9 Responses to “Puns are the lowest form of ad life”

  1. dougbrowncreative May 3, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    I used to work on Telus and they demanded puns. Couple of my favourite groaners:

    > You otter be saving in a bundle.
    > Tweet yourself to a free month.

    It’s the advertising equivalent of Twinkies. The kids love it.

  2. sgoth May 3, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    The client demanded them? Yikes. And I thought puns came from nostalgic copywriters pining for days long past when puns used to be kind of fresh.

  3. dougbrowncreative May 3, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Oh you mean the 1700’s. Yeah…the good old days!

  4. Louisa May 3, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    As an outsider to your business all I have to go on about ad agencies and how they create campaigns are things like this. Doug, I thought of you when I read this:
    http://bit.ly/dXNJRb

  5. Shannon May 3, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    I HATE puns. Always have, always will, but have never been able to articulate why. Thanks for putting words to what has otherwise been the gut-response of nails on chalkboard.

  6. sgoth May 3, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    Louisa – the article at your link is a great read. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Thanks for the comment Shannon. I think “nails on chalkboard” sums up puns as well as the post did! 😉

  7. Robin May 5, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    Shannon – pun is to be, why not the question. How a bout a little equal opportunity diversity. Sure most of the time they are corny or overworked but they also can shed insight, provoke or just demonstrate the ambiguities of existence, make you stop and think not just groan. To me good ones are creative and spontaneous and interactive. They catch the moment. William S did a pretty good job of this.

  8. sgoth May 5, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    Thanks for the comment Robin. Not sure if comparing 16th century playwrighting to 21st century advertising is fair.

  9. dougbrowncreative May 5, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    I once riffed off Willy in a headline: B2B or not B2B – that is the question. A regular Herman Punster.

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