It's Almost Never Funny

Oct 24, 2012

Almost nothing is a bigger gamble in advertising than humor. What you think is funny, your husband or wife doesn’t. Or thinks is corny. Or just doesn’t get it. 

The fact is that men and women react differently to humor. A study by Nielsen Research indicates in a key TV age group from thirteen to thirty-four, for instance, that males like slapstick, edgy, sarcastic humor. Females of those ages like off-beat, but not mean-spirited humor.

Hundreds of millions are spent by film and TV trying to figure out what Americans will think is funny. Fact is the chances of actually being funny -- actually entertaining people with a TV commercial -- are slim. And if you succeed, it’s probably gonna cost you a lot of money.

To get your money’s worth you’ll have to run the spot many, many times. By about the third time around, and every time thereafter, what was funny no longer is.

I know some people think the University of Memphis football commercials are funny. To a lot more they aren’t. And when an attempt at humor fails, it falls hard.

Because when you don’t think something is funny, you generally think it’s either silly or stupid. Neither is good for your advertising.

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