Why Being Funny in Advertising Doesn’t Work

There are a lot of attempts in Billings marketing circles to have “funny” copy.  It happens in TV (the dirty dog ad or the “picky one” ads); in radio (too many to name); even in print (more irony than humor).  The reality is this.

One in five TV ads are funny, and Super Bowl ads are three times funnier than the rest. But none of this makes much difference in selling stuff, according to new research by syndicated ad-testing firm Ace Metrix.


The funniest ad among 6,500 to debut in the U.S. between January 2011 and March 2012 is a Huggies ad dubbed “Baby Wets the Room” and “Geyser” by Kimberly-Clark Corp., showing a baby boy spraying the ceiling during an erstwhile diaper change by his dad. According to Ace Metrix, that ad from Ogilvy & Mather was 12 times funnier than average. By comparison, ads from the past two Super Bowls rated merely three times funnier than the average TV ad.



Measuring Funny

Now these are all based on surveys and conversations with a group of viewers after the various events.  With the case of Super Bowl ads, they get played online way in advance today.  Here’s the real story in these funny ads.

Ace Metrix found the funny Huggies ad more effective than other diaper ads on average, it finds neither Super Bowl ads nor funny ads generally work better than others.

Trial and Traffic is Why You Market

The idea behind any advertising or marketing is to increase traffic or trial.  If your marketing does not do that, it is a failure.  All that leads to one of the biggest thoughts to come from the Ace Metrix review.

Funny ads were slightly less likely to increase desire or purchase intent than unfunny ones.

The Requirements of Funny

Your next question might be how do you measure funny?  I can find something hilarious while you might find it boring or even dumb.  Look at the difference between what adults think is funny versus teens (Bam Magera anyone)

Ace Metrix applied a type of semantic analysis increasingly used to analyze social-media buzz to the answers consumers gave open-ended survey questions.

When people used terms including “funny, lol, lmfao, hilarious, good joke” or “chuckle,” the ads were deemed funny. When at least 20 respondents out of the minimum 500 who weighed in on each ad indicated an ad was funny, the firm classified it as such. The more people who thought the ad was funny, the higher its “funny” index.

Critical Error in Thought

Stop for a second and think about that paragraph because there are at least two things about it that are really scary.  One was the methodology.  Second is the idea there are companies who measure social media “buzz” by these words.

Next time you post LOL, or ROTFLMAO on a Facebook post, think about the person who is counting your response and placing in a chart to determine the success or failure of an ad. or even a company’s product.

Funny helps an ad work.  Being relevant, informative, and solving a prospects problem will make an ad work best.

AIDA and Billings Marketing

The next time you get an ad from a Billings marketing person, Billings advertising agency, or even your neighbor down the block, ask the question–‘Does this solve a problem?’  If the answer is no, it might be time to review AIDA.  Or ask for a bit of help with your business’ Billings marketing efforts.



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