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Winning Combo: Humor and Advertising

By Mauricio Martínez - Kantar Mexico
Managing Director


By Mauricio Martínez | Managing Director - Tue, 03/15/2022 - 13:00

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Humor unleashes a positive feeling in us and if we add this element to advertising, we can ensure that the product is remembered and associated with this perception. So, humor and ads make a good pair that has been used in countless successful advertising campaigns. But for the campaign to be effective, humor should be presented in a variety of ways, since not everyone responds in the same way.

We live in a digital age where we are continually bombarded with all kinds of advertisements. While distinguishing yourself from the competition through humor is a good strategy, we must not fall into the trap of provoking laughter in the consumer at all costs, ensuring that the humor is not unrelated to the represented product, since it could cause the opposite effect and not fulfill the main objective for which the advertising is carried out.

In Kantar's AdReaction study, humor was shown to be the most powerful creative enhancer of responsiveness, spanning all generations. Our Link ad test database also shows that not only is it a great way to get a reaction, it can make your ad really stand out from the crowd. Humorous ads are more expressive (+27 point increase), more engaging (+14), and more distinctive (+11).

Only 33 percent of the ads we analyzed at Kantar incorporated some form of humor into their creative, but it's worth noting that 50 percent of the winning ads at Kantar's Creative Effectiveness Awards use it.

But before continuing: what is the best way to incorporate humor in advertising? Let's remember some practices that brands must take into account for it to be effective:

You need to be distinctive:You should have the ability to make yourself noticed and remembered in a world where there are a lot of ads. The ad is not only competing in its category, it is competing for attention globally and it is important to stand out, at least in the category and ideally from any other advertising.

Be significantly different:To increase market share, you need to meet the functional, emotional, and social needs of consumers in the category, and illustrate your uniqueness compared to the competition.

Trigger an emotional response:Make the viewer feel a connection and engagement with the ad, avoiding the natural tendency to filter advertising. It also has positive effects on emotional brand associations.

Humor As a Differentiator in Advertising

Humor is used more often in TV ads (37 percent) than in the other channels (15 percent in print/outdoor ads and 28 percent in digital ads). We also see variation in digital media: 12 percent of website ads, 24 percent of Facebook/Instagram ads, and 30 percent of YouTube ads use humor in some way.

The last 20 years have seen a steady decline in the use of humor in advertising and the pandemic has accelerated this decline. Why is this? Do we live in a more serious world? No. Regardless of what's going on, there is, and always has been, room for humor in the world.

What has changed is a greater fear of using humor inappropriately.

Kantar's COVID-19 Barometer research showed that people wanted advertising to continue during the start of the pandemic as it provided a sense of normalcy at a time when we had 24-hour COVID news. Further research showed that for the most part, consumers processed the content in the same way as before.

In a world overloaded with information and media, consumers want to see things that entertain, and better yet, that make them laugh, even if it's advertising.

Humor and Emotions

In an ever-evolving world, where adequacy levels fall on a transient scale, it is wise to be mindful of the type of humor being used. It is essential that it is not only relevant to your target audience but also appropriate for the media context. Humor offers a great opportunity to humanize brands and generate affinity. In the same way that the friends who make you laugh are often those with whom you have the closest bond, brands that connect with their consumers through humor also bond with them.

Bonding comes from emotion, and it's important to ensure that the natural flow of “emotion” across brand touchpoints is clear and aligned, contributing to a well-executed brand strategy. Kantar's NeedScope model captures the different types of emotions that exist in a category, helping brands choose the emotion around which they want to anchor their brand. It's the same when you think about the type of humor you should use: it should be aligned with the emotions you're targeting with your brand.

Six emotive spaces form the basis of brand positioning and six humor styles align ads on emotion:

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The emotional connection that humor creates helps people remember your ad. We allow "mental availability" for something that entertains us. If the brand is an intrinsic part of that mood, consumers are more likely to remember, notice, recognize and buy the product.

While ads with humor tend to be more engaging and distinctive, ads that make viewers laugh out loud are naturally more likable and more likely to be shared. However, linking humor to branding is an important part of the puzzle. There is no direct relationship between humor and brand recall, even when the humor is laugh-out-loud funny. But when the brand is at the center of the joke, the memory of it can be incredibly strong.

Humor should also be used judiciously to ensure it does not distract from communication, as this can impede persuasion. The danger lies in losing the core message of the ad in the humor.

Targeted Humor

In general, there are not many differences in how humor is enjoyed by gender or age. The differences are more likely to be influenced by the type of humor used. In markets where slight differences are seen, we believe this has more to do with the type and styles of advertising used in the region than actual differences between consumers.

Writing a comedy script is hard, which is evident in more brands turning to professional comedians to write comedy scripts for their ads. Comedians "taste" humor and know what works and what doesn't with different audiences, and those who perform globally are aware of what can be lost in translation. Funny ads that can cross borders tend to use physical or visual humor, while humor that has to do with context can be lost if shared knowledge is not present in all markets.

Which Style of Humor Is Correct?

Visual humor is most often used in advertising, with around 45 percent of ads based on this type of humor. Other styles can be used in specific ways; for example, word game humor when done right can help if skillfully connected to the brand name. Black humor, while rarely used (only 1 percent of ads are at risk), can, if successful, make an impact by creating strong engagement and a memorable brand.

The explosion of social networks has resulted in an evolution of new types of humor, with new styles developed on different platforms. Brands need to know their target audience well, and that means more than knowing their socioeconomic status, age, and gender. These styles of humor can vary wildly between platforms. There will always be content that transitions seamlessly from one platform to another but the previously defined types of humor are evolving on some of the newer platforms.

That is why it is essential that the style used hits the mark and is appropriate for the place where it will be seen. The evolution of existing platforms and the staggering rise of new networks like TikTok means this is a topic under constant review. For example: TikTok humor is fast and often satirical. Short videos use condensed humor, which can be as much about building your brand as it is about making people laugh. This platform has a diverse mix of comedians, influencers, and content creators who know how to edit for maximum effect.

Facebook/Instagram humor is often more personal, and as such can help create emotional connections when content is shared among friends. YouTube humor can range from a full-on comedy to a style clip, but it tends to be more story-driven and longer than other networks. Sometimes brands select and use humorous clips that have gone viral on YouTube.

What Is the Future of Humor in Advertising?

Social media platforms and user-generated content have made mass humor more accessible to all, and this has led to a wider range of styles that can be tailored to more specific targets. Using humor with exact precision can be a way for brands to connect and bond with their consumers on a whole new level.

So, you have to be brave (being funny takes courage) and brands that are bold enough to include humor in their advertising become memorable. There has never been a better time than now to use humor and truly connect with consumers.

Photo by:   Mauricio Martínez

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