Humor in Marketing: Why funny ads are more than a good joke


People love to be entertained, and everyone enjoys a good laugh. This is just one of many reasons that humor is such a powerful marketing device.  It’s a soft sell that’s memorable.  Aside from making the audience feel good, humor cultivates a personal connection to the ad and the product or service.

Think about the Geico ads—do we even remember Geico insurance before the little green lizard came along? How about Flo, the Progressive Insurance girl? Auto insurance is generally no laughing matter, but the ads work, raising the profile of Progressive while undoubtedly raising their likeability. Repetition and saturation with a humorous appeal can differentiate one brand from the rest.

A 2013 study by Ace Metrix, a TV and video analytics company, found that nearly all of the top 10 Super Bowl ads for the last three years used either humor and/or animals as a key creative tool.  Laughter is a great leveler of humanity, and appealing humor can draw more attention from a broader audience than a serious sell. 

Well-focused and funny ads inspire people to pay attention and can help build brand recognition.  Now, that’s not to say everyone is going to get on the Geico bandwagon just because they laugh at the commercials, but most folks are aware of the company when they think about car insurance, and you can’t win the game if you’re not on the playing field. A really funny ad draws attention to start the ball rolling in your direction. 

Good marketers understand that the benefits of laughter are universal, but must be approached in a careful manner.  While humorous advertisements may receive a laugh, they are often disconnected from the product itself.  Effective humor should also inspire a chuckle without being offensive. Perhaps most importantly, a funny ad has to be relevant and informative while it’s generating laughs.

If you can match the humor with information that matters, it’s a win-win.  People want to laugh, and funny ads are more likeable and attention getting. With the right spin, a little laugh can go a long way.

Photo Credit: James Vaughn

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About the Author

Vice President, Public Relations and Account Service

Donna is a proven professional with 20 years of corporate and agency experience in marketing communications and public relations. She is known for her ability to develop strong media relations and effective press materials that achieve quantifiable results for clients. As a top-notch writer with an honors degree in journalism, Donna has written by-lined articles for national publications, marketing collateral, newsletters, and award-winning annual reports. Her experience includes managing special events, trade shows, and crisis communications. She has represented clients in the energy, healthcare, non-profit, human service, technology, real estate and food service sectors.