Has advertising lost its sense of humour?

be-interesting-e1439624143432.jpgA regular blog by Damon Stapleton, chief creative officer of DDB New Zealand

"When humour goes, there goes civilisation." - Erma Bombeck

There is a saying in Hollywood that comedies never win at the Oscars. It would seem the stats back it up. Guess how long it has been since a comedy won best picture at the Oscars? 40 years. Annie Hall won in 1977 and that was the very last time. In total, comedies have only ever won Best Picture 6 times in 88 years.

It's a very strange fact. It's almost like we cannot reward or acknowledge humour. It's as if it is not a deep enough emotion to be rewarded. We need tears, angst or deep meaning to say a film is truly great. It has to be worthy of our praise. The problem with worthy however is that it is a very serious business.
The truth is to make something funny is one of the hardest things you can do. And if you are honest about the films you love or the YouTube clips you show to your mates, comedy wins every time.

As I read all these stats about the Oscars I started to think about if this is true for advertising. Are we any different? How often does funny win best in show these days? And, I stress these days. Innovative, sure. Helping the planet or others, check. A story that makes you feel deeply, that's a yes. Something that makes you laugh your ass off, not so much. So, does advertising still have a sense of humour?

One of advertising's greatest weapons was the ability to make people laugh. We shouldn't underestimate or throw away its power.

While I was thinking about this I stumbled on a brilliant SNL skit that perfectly explains where advertising is at right now and the problems we are creating. And, it uses humour to do it.

Do yourself a favour and watch it. It's worth 4 minutes of your time.

If you are in the USA you can watch it here.

Or, if you are not in the USA, watch it here.

What this fantastic skit highlights is the real danger for advertising right now. Everybody is jumping on a cause. Should every brand have a deep purpose or meaning? If you are a corn chip called Cheetohs like the one in the SNL skit, should you really be trying to save the world?

Now, having said that, I think there are some brands that have walked the talk and have used this type of advertising or way of behaving to great effect. What you will normally find though is there is some sort of natural fit and it makes sense for the brand. These brands normally back up what they say. And, most importantly because of this the consumer doesn't think it is all just bullshit and puffery.

However, without mentioning names, look at the Super Bowl work from this year and you will see many brands jumping on very generic trends that really have nothing to do with their brand or past behaviour. Somebody told them that people care about these issues and they just smashed their brand into a cause or purpose with very little truth, humour, charm or most importantly relevance. This is advertising's version of alternative facts.

It's like meeting somebody at a dinner party who just keeps saying I am a good person, I care about the world, love me. I am a good person, I care about the world, love me. I am a good person...it's pretty weird right. A little intense. You would move to another part of the table desperately looking for someone who has a good story that will make you smile.

For me the lesson is simple. A trend is not an idea. Information is not a story. And sometimes, you don't have to be worthy, or save the world.

Just make me laugh.

damonsbrain.com

1 Comments

Copy Desk said:

Oh man, I've been thinking this exact thing for ages.

Humour is about universality and insight. And like any good ad, it has to be based on a truth to work. Funny makes you feel good. Plus it has less wearout - a perfectly timed gag will make you chuckle even after you've seen it 20 times. How often can a shocking spot shock you? Move you? How many times can you feel inspired by a monologue montage piece, however well crafted?

Brands that are truly honest about who they are, and where they fit into people's lives can't help but build trust, and likeability. And when you're honest about being just a bag of chips, you can have fun. You can be funny. The transaction becomes lighter. It's an honest exchange. We say hey check this out, this is hilarious, have a laugh and in return we'll tell you something real quick about ourselves, and make sure you actually clock our brand. It's easier.

So many ads these days are like ok, we've got this very interesting idea, this very important idea, please pay attention, please invest your attention in this important idea; it's serious but it needs to be, and we're serious too, oh here's our branding, but it's not about us. We're more than an ad, you know. This is more than an ad.

Ads that are happy to be ads are more truthful. And funny ads that are happy to just be that are the most powerful. Because yes, funny wins.

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