Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Is Humor In Advertising Just Laziness?

Watch just about any TV channel for an hour and you'll find that 7 out of every 10 commercials use humor to try and sell almost everything. If somebody was beamed here from another planet, they might think it was impossible to sell anything on TV unless it could somehow be ridiculed or maybe that we're all imbeciles because we don't take anything seriously. Even things we should take seriously!

funny advertising


Take for example insurance. Multiple companies hawking auto, home, life, and other hazard insurances now feature talking animated animals, uncommon accident scenarios, and comedic actor personalities to make their commercials funny so that they'll be more memorable to you and therefore want to share the funny with your chums. None of them mention some important things that should be considered when choosing an insurance company. Such as solvency, payout history, political affiliations, or legal history. Their message is basically, "We'll probably save you money and we're funny, so buy us."

You can readily see similar efforts selling cars, food and beverages, dating services, cleaning products, personal hygiene products, satellite tv, pharmaceuticals, furniture, internet services, mortgages, cell phones, travel services, stock trading, appliances, and more. Is this just laziness by ad agencies or is it a reaction to the laziness of consumers of today?

Not long ago, if a company came off as humorous in their advertising then they were shunned and laughed at, not with. According to advertising master John Caples, who has over 60 years in the business, relying on humor carries a lot of risk. “There is not a single humorous line in two of the most influential books in the world. The Bible and the Sears Roebuck catalog." There's a reason for that. "You can easily entertain a million people and not sell a single one of them.”

These days it seems like the humor is the immediate go to route, even though several studies have found that funny does not typically translate into more sales. So what gives? Dan Dennett, a cognitive scientist at Tufts University, says humor is the easiest and fastest way to form a positive relationship with someone because we are wired emotionally to respond to a limited set of triggers. Humor is one of them.

So it is laziness on both ends of the transaction. Advertisers are simply taking the easy route to your most vulnerable area of your emotional self and we as a society are too lazy to recognize it or care about it enough to hold them accountable. Are we slowly fulfilling a prophecy?

lazy humans