This article examines the changing shifts in advertising and contrasts two of the most fundamental advertising techniques – sex and humour.
Sex and humour are considered by many to be the most fundamental advertising techniques in the modern advertiser’s repertoire. The phrase “sex sells” has been widely held to be an irrefutable truism in the marketing world for many decades. However humour has also become increasingly common place in many successful advertising campaigns and can be seen to be challenging many of the established advertising preconceptions. In this piece we are going to look at this new divide and try to determine which is the more powerful selling technique.
We’ll begin with sex as this is the most dominant “wisdom” of the day. Sex sells for a number of reasons. Most importantly it targets one of the key desires of people – especially those in the age range 18-30, who constitute the largest commercial demographic. The desire to procreate is considered by many to be the driving force of much human activity and therefore it exercises considerable sway over audiences. This is really the key thing that “sex” advertising is trying to tap into. The most common technique used is the either subtle or blatant implication of “buy this product and you will get the girl/boy/man/woman of your dreams.” Of course the reality of the commercials is often more complex and subtle but this still forms the base level of emotional trigger that is being played upon. Now we need to judge the effectiveness of this method of advertising. The initial advantage is of course that your commercial plays to a non-selective desire of almost all people. This means you are potentially targeting the largest possible consumer base for your product. The secondary advantage is that many people associate beauty with success which creates positive connotations for your product. Combined these are the best reasons why sex sells. However, we also need to pay attention to the negative aspects of sex marketing. Firstly, many consumers are now increasingly savvy to these advertising techniques and many consider these kinds of commercials unrealistic. This can be potentially alienating to large parts of your target demographics. Finally the key problem in sexually orientated advertising is that, though it targets broad needs of people, actual sexuality is a personal and not a broad experience – making highly targeted advertising problematic.
Contrariwise humour in advertising has a very different set of positive benefits. Initially the most evident benefit is being able to create positive associations on any product or service. Making people laugh makes them feel positively towards your company and therefore more likely to become customers. Secondly humorous commercials have the ability to go viral much more readily than other advertising techniques. People will talk about a funny commercial and go out of their way to watch it. This spreads your message and increases your brand exposure. Finally, humour can be used cleverly to disguise standard advertising techniques (including “sex sells”) whilst still playing on the standard repertoire of emotional and desire based triggers.
However of course there are disadvantages to this approach. The most common problem is striking the right balance between humour and commercial without alienating your key demographics. Humour can be a very personal thing and advertisers must make sure the humour of the commercial matches the humour of the intended demographic. If the balance is handled correctly though a funny commercial is much more effective at selling and much better at growing a brand. With all approaches to marketing there are of course potential pitfalls; taking the care to overcome them is therefore the highest priority.
This article examines the most common techniques used in humorous advertising and identifies the key situations in which these techniques can be implemented.
Humour has become a mainstay of advertising campaigns and has proven to be one of the most effective methods ever devised for selling products and creating a positive brand image. In this article we look at the most commonly used techniques in funny commercials and advertising mediums.
The most common humour technique used in advertising is juxtaposition. Juxtaposition involves putting two or more elements together or comparing them to create a humorous analogy. For example Hewlett Packard ran a clever advertisement featuring a Christmas picture “ruined” by a teenager dressed as a punk. The print ad then showed an image modified using Hewlett Packard’s PhotoSmart software with a more idealised teenager. This kind of juxtaposition can be used effectively to create or expose a problem that the product can solve.
The second technique we turn to is personification. This technique involves attributing human characteristics to things without them. The best recent example of this is Evian’s Live Young advertisement which personifies babies by making them into active young teenagers. This cleverly adjusts what we might consider a normal situation or activity to create positive associations with vitality and youth.
Thirdly we have exaggeration whereby you extend or stretch the reality of a given situation or characteristic to over emphasise a particular point or point of view. The simple premise is that you make something seem better or have a much greater effect than it does in reality. This allows you to encourage a very positive view of a product whilst making people laugh at the exaggeration itself.
The fourth most common technique we encounter in advertising is the simple pun. One of the most well-known of these is the WKD commercials – which use wicked as a pun for the acronym WKD. This simple technique helps to instil the brand name in to your mind and create certain associations through the humour used.
Fifthly we come to sarcasm. Sarcasm is basically taking the mick of something or someone and using their faults against them in a mildly derogatory way. Sarcasm is generally employed situationally to reveal an interaction between one or more parties and has proven effective at creating humour by espousing situations many of us can relate to in some way – or saying the things that many of us don’t ever have the courage to say ourselves in a given situation.
Akin to sarcasm but slightly differently implemented we have silliness. Silliness simply makes humour out of a ridiculous or farfetched situation or occurrence. Silliness has associations of fun and a laissez faire attitude to life so has proved highly effective at selling luxury and personal products. Silliness often uses everyday situations and makes them ridiculous in order to highlight our own silliness and ultimately to sell products.
Finally we have shock. Shock can either take the form of a surprise occurrence or shock in the form of an unexpected saying or situation. Surprise is used effectively in many commercials to ridicule a person’s situation or lot in life. Shock is used to create surprise through an unexpected occurrence. This technique is used effectively to create positive product associations – with the implication of “buy this and avoid this situation/occurrence.
This article explores the role comedy has to play in advertising; looking at the process of viral marketing and how comedy/humour can play a key role in attempts to make an advertisement “go viral.”
Comedy has become one of the staples of successful advertising in the last few decades and its successes (and failures) are increasingly being scrutinised to improve marketing techniques. In this article we’re going to examine the increasing importance of viral advertising techniques and demonstrate the effectiveness of humour in this realm.
Many of us are aware of the successes that humorous commercials and advertisements have both in terms of eliciting laugher and of sticking in our minds. A funny commercial has been shown time and time again to be one of the most powerful techniques in crating brand awareness and sales. A large part of this is thanks to the viral nature of successful and funny commercial advertising. The term viral is, in this context, used to denote the spread of a form of content across people through means that extend beyond the traditional advertising platforms. An advertisement by itself can be spread through media outlets, TV, print, billboards etc. A viral advertisement however has the added benefit of being spread by word of mouth and increasingly online. Having your advertisement spread in this way extends the reach dramatically of any advertising campaign and vastly increases the number of people exposed (hopefully favourably) to your brand. If your advertisement or commercial contains content that people want to talk about then you will have your message exposed to thousands of people your campaign might otherwise not reach. Online your commercial will be talked about on forums, in chat rooms and watched on social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook. Because of these incredible potential benefits more and more effort is being expended to attempt at making a marketing campaign go viral.
In the search for viral success humour has emerged as the very best way to make a marketing campaign go viral. A funny commercial or advertisement has the highest potential to be talked about widely by both targeted and diverse groups of people. The reason for this is simple – people want to talk about things that are funny. A funny commercial will be talked about at work, in leisure and online. In comparison people are much less likely to talk about other forms of advertising – say beauty or cars – as these have only limited conversational appeal. A group of people interested in cars may talk about the latest Audi advert but only within that group. Comedy therefore exercises the most potential viral power of any advertising technique. The task therefore remains for advertisers to make the most of this opportunity and ensure that their comedy hits the funny bone whilst still exposing customers to the product and the brand.
This article looks at some of the key techniques that have been used to create viral advertisements and looks at their applicability in future attempts at viral marketing campaigns.
Viral advertising is a dream come true for marketers around the world. Thanks to sites like YouTube an advert can be watched by millions of people all of whom will be exposed to your brand and your products. A successful viral campaign is so successful because people will go out of their way to view your campaign and then spread it to their friends for you. Some of the best viral advertisements have hundreds of millions of views on YouTube; which effectively does have the work of an advertising campaign for you. With that in mind we decided to take a look at some of the most successful viral techniques and judge their success.
By far and away the top viral technique has proved to be humour. Humour of course can take many forms and you might be unsurprised to learn that the most successful advert ever has used what many would consider a very low form of humour – destruction. This references Blendtec’s incredibly successful campaign that shows various everyday items (including IPads) being put through a Blendtec blender. This has been incredibly successful but humour is used in a variety of guises within the majority of successful viral advertisements. It can be used situationally to mock certain human behaviours, it can be used farcically to make light of fears or simply just for silliness’ sake or it can be used extrovertly to shock and amuse. Out of the twenty most successful viral advertisements 16 of them use humour as their primary means of promoting a product. This clearly shows that the most successful form of advertising is now humour but how you use it is of course incredibly important. With that in mind we’ll now look at some of the other techniques that have been used to successfully promote products and encourage viral spread.
Initially we’ll take a look at star power. Interestingly in the top ten viral advertisements of all time only one (Pepsi’s gladiator) uses star power. This advert used 4 well known, high profile stars and placed them in a comic situation. The advert spread virally largely thanks to the humour but the star power itself was exceptionally important. However the fact that other adverts have not needed star power to spread virally shows that star power alone is not enough and that adverts that relate to the everyday person are more likely to succeed in the modern advertising world.
Interestingly sports seems to play a prominent (although secondary) role in many of the most successful viral advertisements with Evian’s Live Young, Pepsi’s Gladiator and Dorito’s Crash the Super Bowl all featuring sporting activity or reference to it. Whilst, with the exception of Dorito’s, the actual sport generally plays a background role we cannot ignore the fact that these advertisements are attracting millions of extra views and spreading virally. Sports still has positive connotations of well-being and activity – creating and adding a dynamic feel to advertisements. If used correctly it clearly has a strong role to play in securing viral spread of a campaign.
Finally it is worth noting, briefly, that out of the top 10 viral advertisements only one was done in house. This is actually the most successful one – Blentec’s Will it Blend – however it shows that the professionals have the most success in creating viral content. This shows that many companies are quickly adapting to the myriad changes taking place in the advertising and consumer realms.
This article examines the relationship between humour and sales in marketing; showing that at the base level laughter is one of the most powerful tools in the advertising repertoire.
Many of us consider ourselves savvy consumers and the truth is that increasingly many of us are. Traditional advertising methods have, for many, become transparent and shamefaced attempts simply to help consumers part with their hard earned cash. That’s not to say these techniques are not still effective (they still are in a lot of cases) merely that they have had to become more adept, more subtle if they are to succeed in growing brand awareness and increasing sales. However more and more people of cautious of advertising claims and are reluctant to take advertisers claims at face value or to believe false promises of desirability or beauty.
This has led advertisers to explore a variety of new advertising techniques and has created a paradigmatic shift away from traditional advertising techniques. They have not gone completely as can be seen in the myriad of beauty and car commercials still littering our media outlets but they have had to change. In the past decades we have seen slews of new advertising techniques including abstract commercials, artistic commercials, post-modern commercials and a variety of stylistic variations. However the key way we have developed is towards humour as a central marketing pillar. But the key question remains – why does humour make us buy things.
The answer to this is a complex one and it hinges on the importance of the traditional advertising psychology upon which commercial marketing is based. Marketing psychology identifies the key aspirations, desires and fears of key demographic groups using a variety of socio-geo-demographic segmentation techniques. These techniques break people up into the identifying characteristics that define people within a social group. Combined with the identification of key fears and desires this allows advertisers to laser target specific fears within a certain social group.
In humour this has proved hugely effective as, put simply, you can make light of a certain groups fears and worries whilst exposing them to a certain product or service. In some cases the product itself will act as a deterrent to a potentially funny situation (from an outsider’s perspective). The line of logic runs that the audience will go “I’m glad that’s not me” and then buy the product itself to avoid ever falling into the situation themselves. This is a key way in which humour sells and it works time and time again. Not all funny advertising campaigns rely on these emotional triggers – some simply use humour as a way of exposing people to a brand and causing retention of the products they sell. This technique of brand exposure through humour has been shown to encourage people to buy the products in later shopping excursions as it creates positive brand image and positive connotations (of laughter) whenever the product is experienced. These techniques have real buying power and have proved incredibly effective; whilst individuals may rail against advertisers’ techniques, laughter still makes us buy.
This article looks at the types of humour that can be used effectively to sell products and which types of products they are most commonly suited to.
Humour has become one of the most successful advertising tools and it is used in a variety of forms to attract the largest numbers of customers for a particular product or service. Targeting your humour of your target audience is essential to the success of any funny campaign and in this article we’re going to look at the types of humour and what they are most suited to selling.
Farce uses severe exaggeration to create improbable situations out of seemingly normal situations. This type of humour is used most effectively to sell products which serve to overcome typical problems many individuals face such
Dark humour generally makes a joke out of unpleasant situations or possibilities that many of us may fear or dread. It is used most effectively in advertising to sell personal products such as beauty products and also necessities. Dark humour often is used to simulate a potential pitfall that may befall someone who doesn’t use X product on or for themselves.
Screwball humour works by using misunderstandings and mistakes that then serve as an opening for comic interaction. An example of this could be a misheard conversation or a complete misreading of a situation. This has been used in a variety of advertising avenues most of which centre around home and personal life. It is an effective device for creating a problem that a product can solve.
Slapstick humour generally involves physical interactions as epitomised in the movies of Charlie Chaplin. It uses elements of farce and “accidental” incidents to create humorous situations. This is not a common technique used in advertising, though it crops up occasionally in adverts trying to create a funny and cool brand image.
Parody makes fun or mocks reality to create comedy by twisting well known scenes or information. It is used very effectively in advertising to disguise the actual product or situation – making people think one thing is happening when in fact it is another. Possibly the most memorable example of this was the Darth Vader cough sweet commercial.
Satire is the most commonly used form of humour – both in advertising and across all mediums. It is basically the activity of making fun of human follies and foibles through ridicule and exposition. This is incredibly effective in advertising humour as it allows products to demonstrate why you should have them through exposing human follies and foibles that the products can solve. Most humorous advertisements use satire in combination with other forms of humour to maximise its impact.
If you want to look into funny commercials in its practical/real use you can check out funny-commercials.org.