A Laughing Matter? Humour in Advertising


July 6, 2020 BY Freya Atton - Get free updates of new posts HERE

Being funny is a fine art, you’ve either got it, or you haven’t. Humour in advertising is exactly the same. Whether we’re having a conversation or scrolling through social media, nine times out of ten we’re not really paying full attention to the TV. Humour grabs our attention and that’s one of the reasons it’s become so wildly used in advertising. To distract us from the distractions.

Personally, I think being funny is one of my (many) talents, however you might disagree and that’s the issue. Whilst most people generally enjoy a funny story or a good joke, different people find different things funny! An advert might leave one person in stitches of laughter and the other with a bad taste in their mouth. The line is very thin.

Take KFC’s ‘The Whole Chicken’ advert for example. Featuring a dancing chicken to promote their new menu item, funny right? Wrong. Animal rights complaints aside, viewers were left confused as the advert lost the iconic cartoon like theme and ‘Finger Licking Good’ slogan. Unfortunately, this meant KFC’s brand was lost amongst the humour and viewers just weren’t quite sure what was being promoted.

But why does humour work?

Humour in advertising can be extremely valuable and successful if the balance is right. Creating an emotional connection is one of the most powerful ways to make a lasting impression on someone. Viewers are more likely to remember an advert that made them laugh, or in fact feel sad. Let’s be honest, you’re more likely to talk about a funny advert with your friends than one you hardly noticed.

Burger King are one of the many chains which have taken advantage of COVID-19. They have incorporated social distancing into advertising their new burger the ‘Social Distancing Whopper’. Adding three times as many onions so people will ‘stay away’ is a great example of successfully using humour in advertising. The brand isn’t lost and the product they’re selling is clear.

And I’m sure it’s needless to say you all remember what animal rocked out to ‘In the Air Tonight’ in the 2007 Cadbury’s advert?

‘Humour in advertising is like a gun in the hands of a child. You have to know how to use it. Otherwise, it can blow up on you’ (Miller 1992)

You just need the right tools and experience to make humour in advertising a success.

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Written by Freya Atton