How Your Clients Can Use Humor in Advertising

BY Kathy Crosett
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One effective way to get consumers talking about your client and their products and services is to include humor in their messaging. But humor is a tricky topic. If your client doesn’t get it right, they risk being cancelled. Kantar recently looked at how to use humor in advertising and in which formats. Here’s what they found.

How to Use Humor in Advertising

20 years ago, just under half of ads were designed to make people smile or laugh. About 40% had a lighthearted tone while about 15% were deemed funny. Chances are messaging that passed for funny 20 years ago would now be considered offensive or inappropriate. Most brands, your clients included, don’t want to risk reputational damage resulting from a poorly designed ad. And they’ll have to pay more to redo the creative elements of their campaign. In some cases, they'll bear the expense of a public relations campaign to turn around their situation. So the first step in how to use humor in advertising is to be sure the message doesn’t offend the target audience.

Ad Formats and Humor

Kantar researchers claim that up to 33% of ad they recently studied contained some amount of humor. TV ads are most likely to entertain consumers by making them laugh: 37% of studied ads had an element of humor. In comparison, 28% of all digital ads tried to make people laugh. For print and out-​of-​home ads, the rate was much lower, coming in at 15%.

In our very politically correct world, advertisers use “visual or slapstick” angles to make consumers smile in about 45% of their humorous ads. These scenarios play well in a TV or video-​based environment as consumers can follow a story. For example, a person is trying to make a good impression on someone else but ends up falling into a swimming pool they didn’t notice. That kind of a laugh can be difficult to generate through text or static images. The goal for your clients should be to aim for the laugh-​out-​loud factor which makes people remember and causes them to discuss the ad with friends and family members.

Analysts also dug into the various strategies brands employ when trying to position themselves as amusing. They point out that if your client wants to be perceived as “fun-​loving” and “carefree,” a “childish prank” works well in the messaging. But they should use a different approach to get consumers to see them as “self-​assured.” The best humorous ad strategy could be setting up characters in a scenario that involves a “put-​down.”

Social Media and Humor

In a related study from GWI and Imgur, social media users report being entertained by “memes or parody accounts.” When queried about the type of social content they like most, 28% say funny, while 22% list trustworthy, and 14% select authentic.

Nearly 40% of social media users “follow creators who post funny or parody content.” As they scroll through their feeds on their phones, they’ll slow down to watch a video that makes them laugh. If this kind of humor matches the brand messaging your client wants to communicate, help them develop appropriate videos to introduce their product or service to consumers.

They should also know that while our youngest consumers, Gen Z, heavily use social media, they don’t need humor. In fact, these consumers appreciate “authentic and relatable content.” Above all, they want to engage with original content.

To get a complete profile of how your client’s target audience engages with social media and content in general, checked out their AudienceSCAN profiles on AdMall from SalesFuel.

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