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Well, 2020 was a shit show. Nothing is going to change that. 

While 2021 is looking like it might be an improvement, our problems aren’t going away overnight. That said, my hope is that advertising stops taking itself so seriously and starts having a little more fun. After all, humor has been a tried-and-true coping mechanism during hard times for centuries. 

It’s ironic that the industry closest to tragedy—insurance—relies most on comedy

It’s absolutely understandable why most brands pulled back and played it safe last year. With the global pandemic and racial reckoning happening, brands couldn’t be tone-deaf. These are major social issues that have impacted every single person. And while our problems certainly aren’t solved, I believe people are getting tired of ‘sadvertising’.

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Dell – Coffee/Keyboard

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Dell – Frisbee/Phone

The tongue-in-cheek humor VMYL&R used for Dell shows that sometimes even inconveniences can be funny.

Brands still need to be sensitive to what people are going through, but that doesn’t mean they have to sound like a Hallmark card. It’s okay to make people smile, or even laugh. And with many brands treading water financially, they need to grab people’s attention now more than ever. 

And when you put the car in Ludicrous Mode, a decision has to be made; “Yes, I want Ludicrous Mode,” or “No, I want my mommy.

Think of a brand as a person. A good-looking person may get the first date, but it’s the person who makes you laugh that gets the second and third dates. When you’re funny, you’re more memorable. You’re an upper. Some people are even willing to ignore a few faults if you’re fun to hang out with. 

It’s ironic that the industry closest to tragedy—insurance—relies most on comedy. Everywhere I go I hear people talking about Geico ads and commercials like the Progressive Turning Into Your Parents campaign. (We all see it… blue hair!) They are having fun and using it to build their brands, convert customers, and stand out in a cluttered category.

It’s absolutely understandable why most brands pulled back and played it safe last year. 

“[Humor] is fundamental to forming positive relationships. We buy from people we like, and humor is the easiest and fastest way to get there,” states Psychology for Marketers. The same applies to brands. The more quickly you can establish a connection via humor, the more inclined people are to buy your product.

Companies that have fun with their products and customer experiences are also highly successful, even in trying times. Look at Tesla. They don’t have a high-performance mode; They have Ludicrous Mode. And when you put the car in Ludicrous Mode, a decision has to be made; “Yes, I want Ludicrous Mode,” or “No, I want my mommy.” It’s surprises like this that make people love the car. And helps Tesla steal shares from other car companies. 

Humorous ads also stick in people’s minds, due to a psychological phenomenon called the humor effect. According to Effectiviology, “People are generally better able to remember information that they perceive as humorous, compared to information that they don’t perceive as humorous.” That means that a funny ad works harder for a brand than a non-funny ad. When done right, it’s a better investment. 

 While our problems certainly aren’t solved, I believe people are getting tired of ‘sadvertising’.

This is not to say humor is right for every brand. One of the worst things out there is advertising that tries to be funny and fails miserably. That makes me sadder than sadvertising. And you still need to make sure your brand message is coming through clearly and making people remember you for the right reason. 

I just think it’s time for more of us to pull the comedy tool out of our toolbox. The world needs a laugh right now. And brands need work that gets them attention, as well as gobs of money, so they can laugh all the way to the bank.

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