September 27, 2021

How to use humour in advertising

By Micheala Chung

Laughter is the best medicine and it's also free. So, if you want to sell more products, use humour in your advertising, and then tell people you're giving away free medication.

Seriously though, adding humour to your content is a smart way to get noticed by potential and existing customers—many of whom have the attention span of a TikTok-addicted goldfish.

Overcoming content saturation

Nowadays, people are bombarded with content from all directions: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube. And I haven’t even mentioned the streaming services yet. I also hear rumours that there are people in far-off villages who still have cable.

Even though our world is saturated with repetitive and meaningless ads, memes, tweets and grams, we’re still hungry for more. Like bibbed babies at lunchtime, we expect companies to constantly spoon-feed us content.

With so much information available to us at the touch, tap or swipe of a finger, why would we settle for content that’s as boring as a Monday meeting?

Keep in mind that the social media platforms where companies often advertise are designed to entertain and titillate. And yet, some advertisers are too timid to even use the word “titillate”.

As a stand-up comedian and professional copywriter, I understand why companies are tentative about using humour in advertising. Comedy can be a risk. In some cases, humour just isn’t the right route for a brand. But if you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume that you want to take advantage of the many benefits of funny content.

Why funny ads are where it’s at

Humour helps brands stand out from the competition. While other companies shiver in the shadows with their buttoned-up, boring content, companies like Budweiser, Charmin, Taco Bell and Old Spice are using humour to attract more attention than a pug in a cardigan.

A truly funny ad has the potential to hit that emotional sweet spot that builds the kind of cultish loyalty that brands secretly salivate over. That’s why companies partner with the ultimate modern-day cult leaders: influencers. But I digress.

We were talking about why ads that include humour are 99.9% more effective than ads that include Matthew Mcconaughey. Just kidding, Mcconaughey’s Lincoln ads are (unintentionally) hilarious.

How to add more humour to your content

At this point, you might be wondering how to make your content funnier. Even if you’re not a stand-up comedian there are tried-and-true methods to write ads that are virtually guaranteed to reduce boredom by up to 50%. They are also virtually sugar-free and can make wrinkles virtually disappear!

4 tips for writing funny ads

The following joke writing structures can be used for ads, blogs, social media posts, Tinder profiles, or emails to gran—whatever floats your cyber boat.

I learned many of these tips from my comedy teacher, former Tonight Show writer and comedian Jerry Corley.

Use humorous analogies

As you may already know, an analogy is a comparison between two things. Funny analogies are unexpected comparisons.

When it comes to comedy, you don’t want your analogies to be predictable, like a Hallmark card. You want them to be unpredictable, like JLO’s love life (Bennifer, am I right?).

Here are some examples of funny analogies in ads and social media posts:

Break a pattern

Surprise is one of the most powerful laughter triggers. That’s why pattern interruption is such an effective comedy tool. It catches people off guard just enough to make them giggle.

The trick is to set up a predictable pattern and then smash it. A very common and easy way to do this is with a three-way buildup. This method involves listing two similar things, and then making the third thing different and unexpected.

The SNL parody ad below uses several three-way buildups.

Create a cliché reformation

We’re all familiar with clichés. These overused phrases are actually a goldmine for humour. Their boring predictability provides the perfect opportunity for a sneaky pattern interruption.

Start off with the original cliché and then add a twist that surprises and delights your audience.

Here are two examples of cliché reformations:

“A fool and his money are soon partying.” — Steven Wright

“Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you’ll be a mile from them, and you’ll have their shoes.” — Jack Handey

Use incongruity

Incongruity is when someone or something has qualities that seem to conflict with one another. In comedy, a lack of congruity creates an element of surprise that makes people chuckle.

Incongruity examples:

  • A flirty, sassy grandma (think Betty White).
  • A politician playing Pokémon.
  • A rich, high society woman telling potty jokes.

The viral Poo~Pourri commercial below is a classic example of the comedic power of incongruity.

Try it for yourself

As with any form of creativity, natural talent is only a small part of creating comedic material. Anyone can use the joke writing methods I shared today to add more humour to their ad copy and social media content. Give them a try and see what you come up with!