How to use humour in advertising

Using humour in advertising is one of the most memorable ways to connect with your audience. People always remember something that makes them laugh, they tell their friends about it, and it’s a quick way to make a company seem approachable.

Ask around in our marketing agency and there are some key ads which we find unforgettable for all the right reasons. Here we’ve put together some top tips for how to – and how not to – use humour in advertising.

Work within your brand’s personality

There’s few things worse than inconsistency. If you’re a serious brand, but suddenly put out a joke- filled ad, it’s going to seem completely out of character to your audience and leave them at the least confused, at the worst, put off.

That’s why sticking to your brand guidelines is so important. If the brand personality is light-hearted, find an expression of humour that is in the range of light-hearted, but doesn’t cross into wacky!

Aldi is one brand which really sticks to this advice. Their recent ad released for Tokyo 2020 is a blast of energy and colour, reflecting the tone they use across all of their marketing material (particularly social media, which they excel at!) to make the supermarket chain seem fun and approachable.

Cater to all your audiences

Many brands have a wide target audience who will have different types of humour thanks to their age, media consumption and frame of reference, so what if your brand is trying to reach multiple demographics? How do you make sure humour works for everyone?

One way of achieving this is to use visual comedy instead of having a narrator or character telling jokes. Marks and Spencer made a superb example of this using their signature Percy Pig brand, imagining a boardroom filled with toy pigs. It’s an adorable ad which appeals to all ages, and M&S posted it on both Facebook and TikTok to reach different demographics.

Avoid stereotypes and offensive humour

Times change, and what was considered acceptable decades ago might not be now. Stereotypes are an easy way to quickly convey a message, but ASA guidelines prevent stereotypes from being the subject of ridicule so think carefully about what you’re making fun of: is it a character who’s the source of mockery, or is it the group of people that the character is meant to represent?

This ad from Barclaycard starring Rowan Atkinson as a bumbling spy is a great example of how to poke fun at a character without being offensive. The humour comes from him being clumsy and unobservant, instead of using stereotypes about a demographic.

Make sure you’re not ridiculing your brand

It’s fine to laugh at yourself, and it can really help your brand connect with audiences and be seen as more approachable, but there’s a fine line! Don’t undermine your brand because it can result in people not taking you seriously.

If you want to poke fun at your brand as part of your personality, just be sure to still make yourselves look competent. Apple did a fantastic job of this in their ‘The Underdogs’ ad, showing a team of creatives using Apple technology to meticulously design a round pizza box – a nod to the fact that the company did, in fact, once patent just that.

Most importantly, have fun with it!

Making a funny marketing campaign is an opportunity to let the brand’s creativity flow, so don’t just go by the book. Think outside the box and come up with something funny and unique which suits your brand.

If you’re looking for help putting together an ad that will leave your customers ready for more, our team of experts are always able to put a smile on your face! Take a look at our work.

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