The Impact of Humour in Advertising

 “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)

 As the new era of digitalization continues to evolve and grow, modern businesses are stretching the traditional media to digital means of marketing. New technology has made it much easier to collect information on consumer actions, desires, and wishes, from a marketing point of view. Because of the rise of the internet and e-commerce, marketing tactics have changed. Marketing is a business activity that includes recognising, anticipating, and fulfilling the needs of consumers. Advertising is a form of marketing in which a business pays to have its messaging or brand advertised in a specific location. Consumers' purchasing decisions are influenced by advertising, which has a psychological effect on them. Advertisement, if performed correctly and strategically, will improve consumer retention and sales.

Advertising is like a one-way channel of communication. There are various benefits of a successful advertising campaign. A company can achieve following means through advertising;

  • Persuade consumers that the products or services are better.
  • Provide product or service information to customers.
  • Set or Boost the Brand's Perception
  • Draw new customers while maintaining the ones you already have
  • Create product or service requirements or desires for customers.
  • Make new products or services recognized.

While the facts mentioned above are well known, using humour in ads is a new trend in the advertising world. According to Fugate D., “Advertising humour refers primarily to the ability of audiences to respond positively when one or others are portrayed in a playful manner”. Although humour is by no means a guarantee of better advertising, its effect can be enhanced if the intention is carefully considered. Advertisers have experimented with targeting humour in dozens of experiments over the last few years. Humour is a complex concept that is influenced by a variety of factors.

However, the query of humour's utility in advertisement remains unanswered, we may put together records of humour research in the context of appropriate constraints to gain new insights into its resources.

Three factors affect the effectiveness of humour as a marketing tool:

Humour causes consumers to;

  1. Watch
  2. Laugh
  3. Remember

A reference from famous American Sitcom FRIENDS

Humour is a common concept that is easy to understand and appreciate, and it often triggers people to laugh. Simply put, it's the consistency of being funny or comic. There is no widely agreed classification of humour types, but sorting humour into philosophical, theoretical, or realistic categories is considered to be significant. The categories are sarcasm, puns, personifications, comparison, exaggeration, silliness or even black humour. In magazines, sarcasm is the most popular type of humour, while on television, silliness comes out on top. Humour has the power to relax an audience, break the ice, and create a bond between the communicator and the audience.       

According to surveys, 94 percent of advertising professionals think humour is an excellent thing to get audience's attention. Besides that, 55% of advertising research executives agree that humour is more effective than non-humour in drawing consumers' attention. Around 30% of all commercials contain some sort of humour. Nowadays, the creative ability of using humour in ads has no limits. Consumers should be made to laugh, but the commercial should also influence their actions and attitude toward the product or service. It needs to make them remember the product, so that when they make a purchase, the product or the brand will come to their mind.

Humour can benefit in a lot of scenarios. It has the potential to make or break your brand image. We are bombarded with ads on a daily basis. It would be fascinating to learn why we respond to certain ads and ignore others. Humour is a perfect way to attract and hold people's attention. Consumers enjoy advertisements that make them laugh. Funny things have an intrusive nature and can draw attention. According to Abraham Maslow, people tend to develop a more comedic view of life as they mature. Laughter helps people to detach from reality. However, comedy is culturally specific: what is humorous in one country cannot be amusing or understood in another. It is not acceptable to make jokes about everything in advertising, particularly sensitive items, because the commercial can offend someone.

However, influencing the human’s mind is never easy. One of the quotes from advertising genius David Ogilvy is “The consumer is not a moron; she is your wife. Don’t insult her intelligence”. Even though there are a lot of techniques about using humorous appeal, advertisers must spend the time and effort necessary to understand their target audience, much like one has to understand his wife.



Vaishnavi Wagh
PGDM-Batch: 2020-2022
Vivekanand Business School