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How do I successfully introduce humour into my video ad?

Peter Kajan
Jun 14, 2021

A wise person once said that laughter is the best medicine, and many of us have learned that humour can help us cope with some of life’s difficulties. After all, who doesn't like to laugh and need lighter moments in their lives? This is especially true in dark times, such as when daily life is shaped by a pandemic. We all need something to lift our spirits.

A further factor in support of using humour is that focussing on one thing without becoming distracted by other input is not always easy for us. Humour, however, has an astonishing ability to both grab and hold our attention. It also generates pleasant feelings and improves mood. By using humour in your ad, your audience is likely to associate positive feelings with your brand.

In addition to being good for us and engaging, humour is one of the strongest and most popular appeals in advertising. But be cautious: incorporating humour is not as easy as it seems, and it can be a double-edged sword! Whether you use parody, irony, satire or even slapstick, the wrong kind of humour may fail to appeal to your audience.

The use of humour must be approached with care, thought and consideration. Insensitive ads could not only hurt and offend, but they may turn the audience against your company and brand if they are perceived as prejudiced and / or unprofessional. Humour is tricky as it is subjective and culture specific. Some audiences will not see the funny side and therefore not understand the ad.

In this article we will explain how you can work intelligently to use the humour appeal in your video ads, and we illustrate our ideas with great examples.

The first example of the successful use of humour is Melbourne’s Metro Trains "Dumb ways to die" campaign. The catchy song and zany animated video successfully convey an important but unfunny message while still making many viewers laugh. The aim of the advertisement is to reduce the number of accidents on the railway line, and it was so successful and popular it gave rise to a game in a mobile app.

A funny video by McCann in Melbourne that conveys a serious message.

#When a joke is not a joke

Have you ever told a joke or shown a meme to someone that made you cry with laughter only to be met with a polite smile in response? I think most, if not all of us, have had that experience. This situation is clear evidence of how subjective and personal humour is. What we find funny is not necessarily what others think is amusing.

There are several factors that have a bearing on sense of humour: culture, religion, age, and gender. For example, sarcasm is not appreciated in China and sex-based humour is not welcomed in Singapore. Boys and young men are more likely to find toilet humour funny than their female counterparts.

An example that works for one gender more than the other is the video ad from the Tecate Light beer brand which is aimed at men. It was ranked second out of more than 1 700 videos in the list of funniest beer ads last year, according to the Ace Metrix survey. Tecate’s ad is strong in terms of being cross-cultural, but it would not be as successful if the audience were women who are far more sensitive about body shape and image.

The 30-second spot from the Mexican agency Nomades for Tecate Light is popular.

In other words, if humour is to achieve its goal in a video, it must be relevant to your specific target audience. The first step in creating a funny video must therefore be to try to understand the specific profile of your target customer. Yes, this undertaking can be time-consuming and frustrating, depending on the size and composition of your target audience. However, as a company you should already know a lot about your target market from the various surveys and analyses you have carried out. 

If your target audience is extremely broad keep the humour as universal as possible. In other words, avoid culture- or region-specific parodies and references to specific events or topics. After all, not everyone has seen the same movies, TV programs, read the same books, etc as you. 

The second pitfall to watch out for is the so-called vampire effect. You might produce an ad that viewers love because it is so entertaining, but they don’t notice or recall later what is being advertised. Ads must promote brands, products, or services. If they only amuse viewers, they are ineffectual and a waste of your time and money.

The well-known American brand of crisps, Pringles, solved this problem by ensuring they understood their target group: predominantly young people aged 18 to 30. The brand regularly conducts research focused on what resonates with their target market the most and the data obtained led them to an interesting finding. A large segment of their target market are fans of the TV series Rick and Morty, which is an animated sci-fi series in which the characters travel through different universes, where anything is possible. The challenge was making a connection between this show and the Pringles brand.

Those of you who enjoy these crisps probably know that the brand is constantly exploring and developing new flavours. Bingo! This corporate focus and activity fits well with the universes of the TV show. As a result, a 30-second animated commercial was created that depicts the characters trapped in a Pringle’s ad and it brought several million Rick and Morty fans to the brand.

As usual in Rick and Morty, the characters find themselves in a bizarre world; this time it’s a Pringles ad.

#Don't talk – show

If you create a video, funny or otherwise, you want to share it on social media platforms immediately. But there is something you should keep in mind: on many platforms people watch videos with the audio muted. In fact, some 85% of Facebook users view videos without sound. This has implications for video planning and production. For example, if you planned to start your video ad with a funny audio insertion that would attract viewers, it won’t work because it won’t be heard. The solution is to ensure that the humour is closely aligned with the visuals.

Some people would say that this problem can be overcome by using captions. From experience most of us have found that reading something amusing is not as funny as seeing and hearing it at the same time. At Mynd we keep this in mind as we develop screenplays so that we support words visually at each point. This is especially true for humorous videos where we go so far as to delete words from the script that cannot be adequately supported visually.

A fun example of a simple video that requires no words and conveys its message perfectly is a video from Simply Perfect Marketing. The 60-second animation, in which wildebeests are the main characters, shows in an engaging, entertaining, and easily comprehensible way how far some animals (yes, and people too in some cases) will go to be proved right.

The point of this funny video is easily understood even by a viewer watching it with muted sound.

#Be strategic

As previously mentioned, you must also ensure that the humour supports the message you want your audience to get. Afterall, the video ad is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. One way to do avoid this serious pitfall is to write a video proposal that only contains the video message. Once you are satisfied with it, you can then find places where humour will be appropriate and will bring the scene to life. 

Don't try too hard to be funny as forced humour seldom works. Find a healthy and suitable level of humour that will be authentic and that fits your brand. The most effective funny video ads are those in which the joke includes the characteristics of the product and / or the personal value gained by having the product.

You need to be strategic when placing humour within a video:

  • The first seconds of the video are the most important, so starting with the best joke to engage your viewer is strongly recommended.
  • Next, develop the message of your video ad. You don't want the viewer to lose interest, so liven up the scenes with a few lower key quips or images that will entertain the viewer and hold his interest without having him in fits of laughter.
  • The ad should finish with a strong, witty punchline which causes laughter and leaves the viewer with a positive impression and feeling good. 

We used this "formula” to create an animated video for Credit Suisse to explain and promote their Global Robotics Equity Fund. The video begins with a humorous scene depicting robots that certainly don't want to destroy the world. We added morsels of humour throughout the video so that the viewer pays attention to the content and message of the video throughout and at the same time retains positive feelings.

An animated video that attracts with humour without deviating from the main message of the advertiser.

Bringing your video to life with the right amount of humour can really help your brand. However, not every brand should communicate through humour and not all humour is suitable. If it isn’t authentic in terms of what is being promoted, and sensitive to the viewer, a funny video ad will harm your business rather than promoting it. We trust this article directed has provided guidance in terms of how to make your audience laugh without straying from your brand's marketing strategy, and how to avoid potential pitfalls.  

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Adriana
Head of Production

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